Increased effort against overdose deaths

drug syringe overdose deathsMan preparing to inject himself from a syringe. Photo: Jair Lázaro / Unsplash

Increased effort against overdose deaths in Norway

A new Norwegian national overdose strategy will reinforce efforts against overdose deaths. Naloxone nasal spray should be available in all municipalities with injection abuse. A separate process for follow-up after non-lethal overdoses will be made. It ought to be considered to test the contents of intoxicants.

“It is tragic when someone loses their lives due to an overdose, and it is burdensome for relatives who lose a loved one. In the last two years, we have seen a decrease in overdose deaths. This indicates that the work we have done provides results. There are, however, still too many who lose their lives because of overdoses. There is, therefore, a need for reinforced efforts,” Norwegian Minister of Health, Bent Høie, states.

From 2016 to 2017, the number of overdose deaths decreased by 13 per cent. The decline took place in municipalities where extra efforts have been made, including participation in learning networks and distribution of naloxone nasal spray, which is an antidote to overdose. There was a slight increase in overdose deaths in the rest of Norway.

“Naloxone nasal spray saves lives. Today, there are 35 municipalities that distribute it. The aim is that this nasal spray will be available in all municipalities with injection abuse,” Høie informs.

The Norwegian Government has strengthened the Naloxone project by NOK five million in 2019 to ensure that more municipalities start to offer the nasal spray.

Change in the cause of overdose deaths

There is a change in what substances people die from. In 2006, almost half of the overdose deaths in Norway were due to heroin. In 2016, a majority of overdose deaths were due to other opioids, including strong painkillers such as oxycodone. The number of people who received prescribed oxycodone, at least once, increased from 9,000 in 2005 to 56,000 in 2017.

“We must take this seriously. I have, therefore, commissioned the Norwegian Institute of Public Health to look more closely at the prescription of persistent opioid treatment for patients with chronic pain. In addition, many GPs will receive academic updates in the correct use of opioids during 2019,” Høie continues.

There is also a need for more knowledge about the increase in deaths associated with strong painkillers in order to target measures even better. This entails finding the connection with increased use of prescriptions, and whether there are new risk groups for overdose deaths that we now witness. Two research projects will be initiated on this.

Read the complete overdose strategy.

© / #Norway Today
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