ianna Fáil Spokesperson on National Drugs Strategy, Jack Chambers TD has criticised the Government’s response to providing widened access to the antidote Naloxone which is used to reverse the effects of opiate drugs like heroin and morphine in cases of overdose.

Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose, allowing more time for emergency treatment.

Commenting on the need to broaden access to the drug, Chambers said, “Ireland continues to have one of the highest drug mortality rates, with over 70 fatalities per million people, the fourth highest in Europe.

“The long-used antidote Naloxone is currently only available by prescription to those who are in immediate risk of an overdose and to individuals specifically trained in administering the drug.

“The UK’s ‘Take Home Naloxone’ programme is an example of how effective the drug can be when made widely accessible. The programme which has been in place for a number of years has proven to be quite successful in reducing the harm related to opiate misuse by providing kits for the drug.

“Despite seemingly recognising the opiate epidemic in Ireland and the advantages to proactively responding to it, the HSE received just €750,000 additional funding from the Government to increase access to naloxone this year.

He added, “Widening the availability of Naloxone is not only beneficial to people who are addicted to opiates, but for families, friends and anyone else who may come into contact with those who use opioids. In parallel to expanding access to the antidote, it is crucial that we also provide information and training on how to recognise overdose and how to administer the drug.

“Speaking with A&E nurses and frontline emergency staff, it is clear that this issue is growing and at a frightening pace. It is essential that this Government quickly responds to that with measures that are proven to work.

“There is strong evidence for Naloxone’s role in addressing overdose and Fianna Fáil has consistently called for it to be more widely introduced.

“While the focus should remain on preventing opioid addiction and abuse, this drug has huge potential to help save lives from opioid toxicity.

He concluded, “An initiative to make Naloxone more accessible should therefore be a part of the Government’s plan to effectively deal with overdose and the harm related to opioid misuse.