Call for police to carry lifesaving overdose medicine
published on 19 Dec 2023
In response to nearly five thousand drug-related deaths in England and Wales, the highest since 1993, The Salvation Army wants all police officers equipped with Naloxone, a lifesaving nasal spray, to save thousands of lives each year.
New annual figures* released today by ONS (Office of National Statistics) show that during 2022 in England and Wales:
- 4,907 deaths related to drug poisoning, the highest number since records began in 1993.
- 4,572 of these deaths were in England.
- 318 of these deaths were in Wales.
- 2,261 drug-poisoning deaths involved opiates; this represents just under half (46.1%) of drug-poisoning deaths registered in 2022.
Naloxone, which can be given as a nasal spray or injection, temporarily reverses an opioid overdose to allow enough time for emergency services to arrive. The medicine is already successfully being used by some police forces, but only on a voluntary basis.
Lee Ball, Director of addictions, said:
"We know from our work that the use of drugs is often a way to cope with despair and distress due to trauma, poverty, and a sense of hopelessness. Every death that results from this is a tragedy, even more so when that life could have been saved.
"Naloxone is safe, simple and effective, and it's quick and easy to use. With police officers usually the first responders in an emergency, equipping those on the frontline to use Naloxone would save thousands of lives every year.
"But it's also vital that there is adequate provision of a range of treatment services to support people to stay safe plus policies that address the root causes of addiction. It is not until we start to address the underlying conditions that we will be truly able to prevent the harm from the use of drugs happening in the first place.
"At The Salvation Army, we take a compassionate harm reduction approach, which means removing moral judgement from health and social care to support the person to address the cause as much as the consequence of their drug use. In this way, we have supported thousands of people to build a sense of hope for their future."
To expand the use of Naloxone, The Salvation Army is calling for:
- All frontline police officers in England and Wales to be trained and equipped to administer and distribute Naloxone.
- NHS emergency departments, mental health Trusts and ambulance services across England and Wales to issue take-home Naloxone kits for those at risk of opioid overdose.
- A Government-funded national Naloxone programme for England, currently the only UK nation without one.