The Maudsley and King’s College London’s National Addiction Centre will be lit up in purple today to mark International Overdose Awareness Day.
Held on August 31 each year, the global event aims to raise awareness of overdoses, reduce the stigma of drug-related deaths and show support for grieving families and friends.
Coinciding with this year’s event, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) and the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London have announced a new pilot project that could help save lives.
Together, the two world-leading organisations are now working with in-patient and community mental health teams to provide take-home Naloxone (known as THN) to patients at risk of heroin overdoses.
Naloxone is a medicine that reverses the effects of opioids, essentially acting as a ‘heroin antidote’.
This miracle cure, now offered as a quick nasal spray, can work in just minutes.
Although it has been used for around 25 years, pharmacists and nurses at the trust are now working on a trial that is helping a wider range of people access the treatment after being discharged from hospital. Previously, prescriptions were only provided from within addiction treatment services.
Nurses across the Denmark Hill hospital are also being given improved training on opioids and the risk factors of overdoses. They will go on to share this knowledge with other nurses, carers and people using Maudsley mental health services.
Martin McCusker is a member of the trust’s Lambeth Service User Council, a group of people who use drug support services in the borough who help represent patients and service users’ views.
“On International Overdose Awareness Day, it is really important to remember that behind every drug-related death statistic is a person who loved and was loved, who was someone’s son, daughter, mother or father,” he said.
“Most accidental overdoses are entirely preventable. We need to raise awareness around what overdose looks like from all substances, and support people to understand how to help in the event of an overdose.
“We must tackle stigma and challenge perceptions around overdose – whether this is on illicit or prescribed substances – and ensure drug policy supports and reflects this.”
Dr Emily Finch, Clinical Director for Addictions and Joint Deputy Medical Director at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that harm-reduction is the most effective way to reduce drug-related deaths.
“Our inpatient and community services at Maudsley Hospital are now able to receive and deliver take home Naloxone training to staff, service users and carers.
“We intend to expand this training to other hospital sites and community mental health teams across our boroughs to support people who use our services and reduce risk.”