HSE Publishes New Report on Lifesaving Naloxone Administration by Irish Addiction & Homeless Service Providers

Today, 15th June 2022, the National Social Inclusion Office has launched the second instalment of their Drug Insights Report Series – ‘Naloxone Administration by Addiction & Homeless Service Providers in Ireland: 2018-2020.’  

Naloxone is prescription medication used to reverse the effects of opioid drugs like heroin, morphine and methadone if someone overdoses. It is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for the treatment of opioid overdose cases. Within minutes, it reverses the effects of opioid overdose.

The aim of this new report is to provide an assessment of the impact of the provision of naloxone to addiction and homeless services, including training for staff on administration of the medication. The study reviewed data collected by Addiction & Homeless Service Providers for each of the 569 incidents where naloxone was administered from 2018-2020, and uses cost benefit analysis calculations to demonstrate the return on the investment in the Naloxone Programme over the last number of years.

Prof Eamon Keenan, HSE’s National Clinical Lead-Addiction Services says: “From a health perspective, it is recognised that the increased availability of training and the provision of naloxone in the community has potential to reduce drug-related deaths among a population who use opioid drugs. This report has highlighted this fact and continued investment will benefit individuals and their families.

“We have identified a need to improve research, expand provision and engage with stakeholders in relation to naloxone and this is particularly relevant if we observe what is happening in relation to the emergence of synthetic opioids, which carry additional overdose risks, in parts of Europe and North America.”

Yvonne O’Neill, National Director, Community Operations, HSE says:  “This is a programme that fundamentally saves lives, while also producing savings for the state. We look forward to continuing the work of the programme in the coming years and thank the authors of the report for this valuable contribution to the literature in this area.”

Dr David Evans, Research and Data Officer, Addiction Services, HSE says: Over the three-year period, naloxone was administered on 569 occasions in overdose situations. Using international literature on survival outcomes, it is estimated that this has resulted in saving at least 22 lives. In reality, these 22 individuals and their families have been given another chance at life.”

The Naloxone Programme has become an important element in HSE’s implementation of the harm-reduction approach advocated by our National Drug and Alcohol Strategy. The increased provision and development of naloxone use in Ireland is centralised around minimizing the harms caused by the use and misuse of substances, and promoting rehabilitation and recovery. This approach is in line with Strategic Action 2.2.30 of the strategy: to continue to target a reduction in drug-related deaths and non-fatal overdoses.

As recommended in the report, the development of the Naloxone Programme will be focussed on ensuring that all those individuals who have been administered naloxone are signposted to relevant treatment services to ensure that their ongoing health needs are addressed.

This report also aligns with recommendations proposed in Drug-related Deaths in Ireland: Key Patterns and Trends 2008-2017, launched last year, which recognises that; ‘naloxone availability for opioid users should be prioritised and its impact monitored on an ongoing basis.’

The report recognises that the Naloxone Programme should continue to be resourced and expanded to achieve a stronger geographical spread given the demonstrated lifesaving benefits in Ireland.

For information and support in relation to substance use go to www.drugs.ie or call the HSE Drug and Alcohol Helpline on 1800 459 459 Monday – Friday 9:30 am – 5:30 pm.


Last updated on: 15 / 06 / 2022