Naloxone overdose drug is a lifesaver: ACT report
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Naloxone overdose drug is a lifesaver: ACT report

''The program actually works. Every time I see my kids looking at me and they see that I'm alive, they know and I know that this program works.''

These are the words of a man brought back from the brink of overdose as part of the territory's Naloxone program, launched in early 2012 to help save the lives of heroin users.

CAHMA manager Simone Crawford and social researcher David McDonald with a Naloxone kit.

CAHMA manager Simone Crawford and social researcher David McDonald with a Naloxone kit.Credit:Jeffrey Chan

The $110,000 ACT government-funded program trained people close to users to administer the drug, which reverses the effects of overdose from opioids.

Speaking at the release of the pilot program's interim report, social researcher David McDonald said the 0.4-milligram doses were a ''very inexpensive intervention''.

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''The naloxone costs about $32, so the program is saving lives for just $32 in each case,'' he said.

''On the basis of the interim findings that we're releasing now I'm cautiously confident that the final results when they come out at the end of the year will encourage the government to continue and indeed expand the program.''

Mr McDonald said the program had initially distributed the drug via prescription to people who had completed the half-day training, covering administration and necessary knowledge such as rescue breathing.

So far 160 people have participated, with no known fatalities and 23 cases reporting success in reversing the effects of overdose.

''There are very few adverse consequences related to the use of naloxone,'' Mr McDonald said. ''The main adverse consequences are related to the way the program is implemented. In some programs, not the Canberra program, the person was revived too quickly. There could have been problems related to that.''

However the program does not provide an avenue for referrals, says Sione Crawford from the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy.

''People who are brought back from an overdose will be attended by ambulance officers, but their role is to save lives,'' he said. ''There are no specific pathways to refer through ambulance services.''

Mr Crawford said the Canberra drug-using community, which he described as ''tight'', was encouraged to access CAHMA's services.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has praised the program. The opposition declined to comment.

Stephanie Anderson is a reporter at The Canberra Times.

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