Consultation could see anti-overdose spray issued to all frontline officers

All frontline police officers in the UK could be routinely issued with life-saving medication to reverse the effects of opioid drug overdoses under proposals being considered by the Government.

Aug 3, 2021
By Tony Thompson

A new consultation launched today (August 3) looks to amend current regulations to allow naloxone to be supplied and administered by a wider group of people regularly coming into contact with drug users.

Currently, while naloxone can be legally administered by anyone during an emergency, its supply is tightly controlled and is available only through prescription.

Aside from an emergency situation, it is only commissioned drug treatment services that are able to obtain and supply naloxone to individuals without a prescription or other written authorisation. This consultation seeks to change that.

Drug-related deaths have doubled since 2012 with the latest statistics showing record numbers of opiate-related deaths across the UK. There were 4,561 deaths related to drug poisoning registered in England and Wales in 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said. Around half (2,263) involved an opiate.

The eight-week consultation comes after the Government launched a new Joint Combating Drugs Unit and committed to publish a new drug strategy later this year to tackle drug misuse across society.

The new measures are being made in response to Dame Carol Black’s landmark independent review on drugs.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Drugs destroy lives, ruin families, and tear apart communities and we are doing everything in our power to stop this poisonous cycle and help people to turn their lives around. Allowing police officers and other frontline workers to carry naloxone would mean more lives are saved from this terrible scourge.”

Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Drug misuse destroys lives and has a devastating impact on people’s health, their livelihoods and their families. To prevent people dying from drug abuse we need to make sure the right treatment and medicines are available, which is why we’re launching this consultation on naloxone today.

“This Government is committed to tackling drug misuse and saving lives, including through our new Joint Combating Drugs Unit and an ambitious new strategy.”

Several police forces around the UK are already trialling the use of naloxone. North Wales Police and Police Scotland have issued naloxone nasal sprays to beat officers, while West Midlands Police, which began trials of the treatment in 2019, recently extended its pilots and announced plans to roll it out to all officers.

The use of naloxone has been supported by the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s drugs lead, Jason Harwin, a deputy chief constable with Lincolnshire Police, who believes it should be available to officers in areas where they may encounter people who have overdosed on opiates.

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