Access to Naloxone

Naloxone Hydrochloride has no other action than to reduce the effect of heroin and other opioids. It does not result in intoxication. It has been used to safely reverse the effects of opioid intoxication in hospital and pre-hospital emergency situations for decades.

Although Naloxone is currently only available on prescription in Australia, international experience demonstrates that non-medical personnel can be trained to safely administer Naloxone to reverse the effects of opioid overdose and prevent death disability.

Lifesavers – access to naloxone to reduce opioid overdose-related deaths and morbidity

Naloxone Hydrochloride (trade name Narcan®) is a pure opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of opiate overdose. It has no agonist properties, and in the absence of opioids naloxone exhibits little significant pharmacologic activity.

Overdose from the use of illicit opioids, particularly heroin, continues to account for most illicit drug-related deaths in Australia. However, a majority of overdoses involving heroin or diverted pharmaceutical opioids are preventable.  Emergency responders such as paramedics and emergency room physicians have been using Naloxone since the 1970s to revive people who are suffering from an opioid overdose.

Evidence suggests that in a majority of opioid overdose situations other people are present, creating considerable scope for intervention to prevent death by overdose.

Naloxone has been available over-the-counter from pharmacies in Italy since 1995 and therefore available for peer administration. Accumulating international evidence since 2000 suggests the provision of Naloxone to opioid users, their peers and family members can occur with few, if any, adverse effects. As of December 2008 there were 52 peer-Naloxone distribution programs operating across 17 US states. It is also now available to non-medical people through pilot programs in England.

Intranasal Naloxone has been successfully trialled by paramedics in the US. A pilot is underway in the UK. Intranasal naloxone has also been successfully trialled in Victoria.