Building a Better Health Service


Time to Remember

The free availability of a drug designed to help during an overdose will be the difference between life and death for many, according to one mother.

Bridget Sugrue, who lost her daughter to a drugs overdose 14 years ago, said the impact of naloxone for families struggling to deal with drug addiction cannot be overstated.

“It is too late for me and my daughter but there are families out there who will be able to help their sons and daughters with this drug. I know there has been some negativity about it because of the use of drugs but people don’t understand how difficult it is to watch someone you love abuse drugs. Nobody wakes up in the morning and decides to become a drug addict. We have to do all we can to help these people.”

The HSE, and partners, are rolling out Naloxone training in three locations across Ireland on International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31st. Naloxone is an antidote used to reverse the effects of an overdose with opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone. It is a prescription medication used as an intervention to help keep a person alive until an ambulance arrives. People who use drugs and family members also need training on how to administer it. An Intranasal Naloxone product is today being included as part of the training for the first time in Ireland.

While she wasn’t with her daughter when she died, Bridget had to watch helplessly on other occasions when her daughter overdosed.

“It was horrible not being able to do anything and just pray that the ambulance gets to you in time. But if I had Naloxone, I would have been able to stop the effects of the drug until help arrived. For many, those few minutes could be the difference between life and death.”

Bridget has already been trained in how to administer Naloxone.

“It was a brilliant training course delivered by Denis O’Driscoll and it really helped so many people who, god forbid, might have reason to use it some day.”

The move to make naloxone more available has been welcomed by the National Family Support Network, who have long campaigned for the change.

“We know that it will save lives,” said Network CEO Sadie Grace. “The drug-related deaths index has shown that 346 people died as the result of an overdose in 2015. And we know that a very high percentage of those people were not alone at the time. So any intervention has the potential to save hundreds of lives.”

Training will be provided for anyone who will be in contact with an addict and may have cause to use the naloxone, such as family members and service providers. The training will also help people to identify when an overdose is happening.

Often the signs of an overdose can be confused with the addict going into a deep sleep and people can be tempted to let them sleep it off. So the training will be an opportunity to help these people identify an overdose and how to use the naloxone to intervene.

“Ireland has come quite a long way in terms of how we treat addicts but we still have so far to go. Not too long ago, not even paramedics were able to use naloxone. It was said that you had to be a clinician to use it. But we campaigned long and hard alongside Merchant’s Quay and Ana Liffey Drug Project to campaign for it use. For too long we have had to sit back and watch our children die,” said Sadie.

“We need to be able to save our children’s lives. There is a serious potential to be able to save actual lives with this intervention and they deserve that second chance at life. We have been trying for years to have naloxone more widely available to communities so families and projects can use it. Family members are able to administer heavy drugs such as morphine for cancer patients but we weren’t allowed to use naloxone. It didn’t make sense.

“The family of an addict play a huge role in their treatment and care. They are on the front line of the problem day in day out,” she added.

Sadie said she was hopeful that more improvements can be made in drug services in this country.

“This development is certainly a major step in the right direction in the way we treat addicts in Ireland,” she said.

“I had an addiction in my own family years ago. In those days, there was simply no support for us. But since we were named as service users in our own right in the strategy, it has been a game-changer. We must support and encourage continued change in the system and how addiction services are delivered.”

Read more about the Naloxone and International Overdose Awareness Day here [ ]