Most Tower Hamlets opiate addicts do not receive potentially life-saving medication, charity figures suggest

PUBLISHED: 13:19 21 December 2017 | UPDATED: 12:54 02 January 2018

A seizure of heroin. Picture: PA

A seizure of heroin. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

Only 2 per cent of Tower Hamlets’ opiate addicts were given potentially life saving medication over a five month period, according to a charity’s research.

Government advice is councils should be working to make the medication more widely available in an effort to reduce the number of deaths by overdose — but Tower Hamlets is failing to implement their strategy.

38 take home naloxone kits, which can significantly reduce the risk of death in the event of an overdose, were distributed to addicts between October and March.

Opiates include heroin and morphine.

“Naloxone can save the life of someone overdosing, is cheap, and has no potential for misuse,” said Zoe Carre, policy researcher for Release, the drugs charity behind the research.

1,900 people died of opiate overdoses in the UK in 2016, the most ever recorded. It is four times higher than the 1993 figure.

12 pc coverage of addicts is the national average for the 117 councils that submitted data to the charity.

Ms Carre added: “It is shocking only 38 take-home naloxone kits were given out between October 2016 and March 2017 and this was not monitored before.

“It is also concerning that loved ones of people at risk of overdosing from opiates were not given the life-saving medication.

“The local authority must do more to prevent opiate overdoses in the area, such as scaling up the provision of take-home naloxone and ensuring this can be accessed by anyone requesting it.”

However the council dispute the figures, arguing not all their data was recorded electronically because of a change in the way they record data.

“We provide advice and support for anyone concerned with their own drug and alcohol use or of someone they know,” said a council spokeswoman.

They bought 870 kits in 2016/17, she adds.

2014/15 estimates suggest there are 2,309 opiate addicts in the borough.

Local authority figures range from 1pc to 20pc, with 18 councils not distributing any kits.

“Heroin-related deaths can also be prevented by the provision of naloxone and all local areas should have appropriate naloxone provision in place,” according to the government’s The Drug Strategy 2017 report.

The law was changed in 2015 to allow drugs services commissioned by a council or the NHS to give out naloxone kits without the need for prescription.

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