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Take-home message: improve naloxone supply

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 22 December 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5874
  1. Jacqui Wise
  1. London

Why are deaths from opioid overdose increasing when there’s a cheap antidote? Jacqui Wise investigates

People may be dying from opiate overdose partly because of chronically inadequate provision of take-home naloxone in England, the drugs charity Release has concluded after reviewing the data.1 The problem has been compounded over the past few weeks by interrupted supplies of the emergency antidote.

The issue of naloxone supply is important because deaths from opiate overdose hit a record high of 2593 in in England and Wales in 2016, 3.6% higher than the number in 2015.23 The highest rates were in northeast and northwest England, and the rise was due in part to an increase in the availability and purity of heroin.

Furthermore, in April 2017 the NHS was forced to warn that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl, highly toxic synthetic opioids that increase the risk of overdose. In the first eight months of 2016 postmortem examinations indicated that 60 drug related …

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