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News (Media Awareness Project) - Australia: Capital Addicts Get Help At Home
Title:Australia: Capital Addicts Get Help At Home
Published On:2011-12-17
Source:Canberra Times (Australia)
Fetched On:2011-12-20 06:00:40

Intravenous drug users in Canberra will be the first in Australia to
be issued with take-home packs of the ''overdose reversal'' drug

ACT Chief Minister and Health Minister Katy Gallagher announced
yesterday that the territory would conduct a two-year trial of the
drug, also known as narcan, among the capital's addicts.

In 2009, the latest year when figures are available, ACT Ambulance
responded to more than 110 heroin overdose emergencies and drug and
alcohol workers say that an Australian dies every day from the effects
of the narcotic.

There are also signs that users are obtaining and using naloxone
themselves with the ACT Ambulance Service reporting about 70 incidents
since January 2010 where evidence was found of the drug being used to
reverse heroin overdoses.

Ms Gallagher said yesterday that the territory would be the first
Australian jurisdiction to undertake a large-scale experiment in
distributing the take-home packs to addicts and their friends.

The drug can reverse the effects of an overdose within a minute, much
quicker than an ambulance could arrive on the scene. Advocates claim
that in US states, more than 10,000 ''overdose reversals'' have been
achieved from the distribution of just over 50,000 kits.

''This is the first trial in Australia, it is happening
internationally and I think the United States have been the biggest
takers of a trial like this,'' Ms Gallagher said. ''Essentially, the
idea is that we make available to peers of injecting drug users
naloxone, which is provided through medical authorities if their
friends overdose.

''It's essentially giving people the power to provide some emergency
treatment, what paramedics do when they're called to a drug overdose,
but in a community setting.''

The trial is envisaged to take 200 injecting drug users or their peers
and train them, in groups of 10, in the safe administration of the
naloxone with kits distributed by a GP to those who have achieved a
level of competence.

Ms Gallagher conceded that there had been problems with aggressive
reactions from overdose victims revived with naloxone but said that
the trial would evaluate all aspects of the drug's use. ''That's why
we're going with the trial and the trial will be evaluated but one
thing we do know is that drug users and their peers are very
experienced in how to inject and how to respond to different outcomes
of those injections,'' she said. ''I think there's no better qualified
people in the community to understand those issues than drug users and
their peers.''

Ms Gallagher's push for a needle and syringe program at the
territory's jail remains bogged down amid a stalemate with some of the
prison's guards who have pledged to sabotage a needle exchange scheme
if it were introduced.

Alcohol Tobacco and Other Drug Association of the ACT executive
officer Carrie Fowlie said yesterday that her group had been a driving
force behind the decision to run a naloxone trial and that the drug
had the potential to save lives in Canberra.

''We still have one death every day from heroin in Australia and this
is the sort of evidence-based program that has been proven to work
overseas,'' she said.

''In some of the American studies, they've distributed say 50,000 kits
and those kits have been responsible for 10,000 overdose reversals.''
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