After years of advocacy, and months of consultation and discussion, legislation has finally been laid before Parliament this month to expand access to naloxone. Although ambiguously worded – as these things often are – it seems to indicate that, from October 1st, drug services will be able to supply and stock naloxone without the need for individual or group prescriptions.
As you may have seen in the media recently, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has launched new guidelines on medical injections and a global campaign to switch all medical and vaccination injections to syringes that cannot be used more than once. However these guidelines do not apply to needle and syringe programmes for a number of reasons.
According to Public Health England, every time somebody injects drugs they should be using sterile equipment – including needles and syringes, filters, cookers and swabs. But the reality is somewhat different. People who inject drugs are often put off asking for the injecting equipment that they are entitled to because of negative experiences.
In 2013 there were 765 deaths involving heroin and morphine in England – a sharp rise of 32% from the previous year. Many of these fatalities could have been prevented by the use of Naloxone as an intervention - we would like to encourage our members (and anyone else reading this) to email their MP.
We have received an information request from the BBC asking about the current levels of Performance and Image Enhancing Drug (PIEDs) users attending UK Needle and Syringe Programmes (NSPs). The current information from members has been anecdotal accounts of increases in use, with some locations saying that the bulk of NSP attendees are using PIEDs. However, as far as we know, there is very little actual recent data on this that has been collated. As a topic we at the NNEF are also interested in, we have agreed to collaborate with the BBC in undertaking some further research. We have put together a short form for our members to complete asking about PIED use in their area.
As NNEF members may already know we are part of the Naloxone Action Group (NAG). NAG is made up of a number of organisations who have come together to press for wider availability of naloxone in England. Today the group has sent out a press release encouraging support of an Early Day Motion and asking people to contact their MPs to ask them to be involved.
There have recently been a number of cases of wound botulism among people injecting heroin in Scotland. There has been a single recent case confirmed in England and, although it is currently unknown whether there is a cross-border link, these cases might indicate an increase in the overall level of heroin contamination.