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Study on medication to prevent deaths from opioid shows promise, says WHO

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Amarachi Okeh

The World Health Organisation says a study that trained people on how to use and administer naloxone could save people from an opioid overdose.

The study carried out in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Ukraine showed that if administered rapidly, naloxone reduces the effect of opioid overdose and also has the potential to significantly reduce the number of deaths.

The study was carried out between 2016 to 2020. 

During the study, participants were trained on how to recognise and respond to an opioid overdose, including the administration of naloxone.

WHO said that more than 14,000 people participated in the study, noting that around 90 per cent of the participants who witnessed an opioid overdose reported using naloxone and in almost all instances, they recorded that the person who overdosed survived.

Evaluation of the project showed that naloxone was widely accepted by stakeholders, ranging from people who use drugs to health and law enforcement officials.

The world’s health authority said “Opioid dependence is a disorder of regulation of opioid use, and individuals who are opioid dependent have a high risk of experiencing an overdose, leading to death.

“Worldwide, about 500 000 deaths are attributable to drug use. More than 70% of these deaths are related to opioids, with more than 30% of those deaths caused by overdose”. 

The study, WHO said, is part of a broader initiative, called S-O-S (Stop Overdose Safely), jointly managed by the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and funded by the United States State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

“S-O-S supports people likely to witness an overdose in the community, with a focus on people who use drugs, their peers, and family members. As well as providing training on the use of naloxone and making take-home kits available, the project makes links between people at risk and treatment services,” WHO said. 

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