International Overdose Awareness Day prompts calls for Medically Supervised Injecting Centres

August 28, 2014

International Overdose Awareness Day takes place on 31st August each year.

It aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of drug-related death, and acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose. With one person on average dying daily from overdose in Ireland, (and with Ireland reported as having the third highest level of overdose deaths per capita in Europe), these messages are particularly relevant here. A National Overdose Prevention Strategy is in development and there is constant and significant concern about drug related deaths in Ireland.

One agency that is promoting International Overdose Awareness Day is the Ana Liffey Drug Project. The Ana Liffey is delivering a range of activities focused on overdose prevention across Ireland. Ana Liffey’s Director, Mr. Tony Duffin, noted that overdose was a major health issue in Ireland and that there was a need to be innovative in how we approached drugs and drug use:

“Far more people die from overdose every year than die on the roads, but each death is just as devastating to the children, families and friends of those who die. It’s a major health concern, and there are simple steps we can take to limit the impact it is currently having. We need to be brave in our policies”.

Mr. Duffin noted that two key issues in addressing overdose are naloxone, an opioid antagonist which effectively reverses the effects of having consumed opiates, and medically supervised injecting centres (MSICs), where people can inject their (illegally obtained) drugs in a clinical setting.

“MSICs are an evidence based intervention, which can be effective in tackling serious issues around drug use – including overdose, improving access to treatment and rehabilitation and public injecting. These are all issues in Ireland today.”

Mr. Tony Geoghegan, CEO of Merchant’s Quay Ireland joined Mr. Duffin in calling for innovative responses to overdose:

“We need to support people who are at risk of overdose. We need to invest in pathways for people to ensure that there are routes from isolated, street based drug use through to treatment, rehabilitation and aftercare. Innovative approaches like drug consumption rooms have a place in that continuum, along with increased investment in residential treatment beds to ensure that timely treatment is available when it is needed”

Recently, Fr. Peter McVerry also called for MSICs to respond to the problems Dublin is facing in relation to unsafe disposal and public use. And Mr. Duffin says that drug users would use such a service:

“We’ve spoken with people who use our services, and we know they’d use MSICs, if they were available. It’s important to realise that public drug use in the city centre will continue to be a problem until people have realistic options. Many people are homeless, they can’t use drugs in existing services and given that they have nowhere else to go, it’s inevitable that there’s a significant amount of public drug use.”

Notes:
For further information and/or interviews with Tony Duffin contact Michael Moriarty on 01 960 3002 or michael.moriarty@aldp.ie

Further information on Ana Liffey’s activities for International Overdose Awareness Day are available here

The global International Overdose Awareness website is managed by the Penington Institute in Australia and is available here

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