Intended for healthcare professionals


Pilot scheme shows that giving naloxone to families of drug users would save lives

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 25 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5445

Benefits of naloxone seen across the pond too

Although naloxone is not a new medication, it has not been used
widely for overdose treatment by people who suffer from opioid dependence,
in large part because it has been caught up in policy, not health care,
debates. It is encouraging to see these results of pilot implementation in
the UK. Today, the Boston Globe reported on a larger program in place
since 2007. They report distribution to 2080 people and prevention of 215
overdose reversals. Opioid related deaths dropped 32%.

The main objection to its use is the same tired case that it will
encourage use (similar to the argument that condoms cause sexual
activity). That argument reflects a complete lack of understanding of the
disease of addiction that involves use that is out of control. Offering
treatment is of course a part of naloxone distribution programs as it
should be but in other diseases we dont withhold treatments that can
prevent death (eg statins) just because harmful health behaviors continue
(poor diet). These reports likely represent a major advance in health
services for people with opioid dependence.

Today's Boston report is at

Competing interests: No competing interests

31 August 2011
Richard Saitz
Boston University/Boston Medical Center