Most accidental overdoses in Australia - especially South Australia - are from prescription drugs, mainly painkillers and sleeping tablets. Many of these deaths can be prevented with a drug that reverses the effects of opioids.
From 1 December 2019 to February 2021, South Australia is taking part in a PBS-subsidised pilot program to reduce opioid-related deaths by making the life-saving medicine, naloxone, available to more people.
For the duration of the Pilot, pharmacies will be reimbursed for their dispensing fee and the cost of the naloxone.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2018, opioids are account for over 3 deaths a day in Australia. Close to 65% of drug induced deaths that year were due to opioids and of those, 70% were prescription drugs such as painkillers.
Naloxone is a drug that counteracts the effects of opioids and has been used for many years to treat opioid overdose. The sooner the medicine is given, the better the chance of surviving the overdose. In Australia, Take Home Naloxone refers to the provision of naloxone to non-medically trained people to use in an overdose situation so that the overdose can be treated immediately.
Under the program, people who use opioids for whatever reason, or people who know someone who uses opioids, can get naloxone from pharmacies—including community pharmacies near them—and carry it with with them in case they witness or experience an overdose. The picture below shows the signs that help you recognise overdose and the steps in administering naloxone. Click on the image to download the full size pdf file.
Naloxone is available as a nasal spray (Nyxoid®), or as injection with a prefilled syringe (Prenoxad®) or an ampoule which you break and draw into your own syringe. For those with limited injecting experience nasal spray is the easier option.
During the Pilot program period (Dec 2019 to Feb 2020), naloxone will be available free from community pharmacies throughout South Australia. Vouchers for no cost naloxone are available from hospital and community pharmacies, prisons, primary care settings, alcohol and other drug services including Clean Needle Program (CNP) sites. The naloxone will be provided together with information on preventing and responding to the adverse effects of opioids.
If you would like a no cost naloxone voucher, speak to your GP, nurse or CNP worker. You can also ask your local pharmacist for a voucher. If you run into problems getting one, give us a call on 1800 437 222 and ask for Carol or Margie.
For more information about naloxone or preventing overdose, call Carol or Margie on 1800 437 222 or visit https://overdoselifesavers.org.