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One person a day dies from drugs overdose

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Charity chief Tony Geoghegan

Charity chief Tony Geoghegan

Charity chief Tony Geoghegan

One person each day is fatally overdosing on drugs in Ireland - nearly twice the number of road deaths.

The figures from the Merchants Quay charity that works with drug users and the homeless show Ireland has the third-highest number of drug-related deaths in Europe.

Merchants Quay Ireland CEO Tony Geoghegan said the issue of drug- related death is of "national concern" and called on the Government to address it immediately.

"The level of fatal drug overdoses in Ireland is totally unacceptable. If it were occurring in any other sector it would cause a huge hue and cry," said Mr Geoghegan.

"Sadly, in many cases, these fatal drug overdoses may have been preventable if appropriate interventions were available.

"I am calling on the Government to prioritise this issue and put a comprehensive national overdose strategy in place."

Mr Geoghegan welcomed a pilot project by the HSE that will prescribe and distribute a product called Naloxone to 600 opioid users to take in the event of an overdose.

Naloxone is an opioid antagonist that reverses the effects of opiate-based drugs such as heroin.

It is one of a number of interventions that are commonplace in cities across Europe experiencing similar difficulties to Dublin.

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An HSE spokesperson said that locations for the pilot will be chosen according to need and will involve around 600 patients initially, focusing on those who are attending voluntary and statutory addiction service including prisons

But Mr Geoghegan said it should be part of a formal national overdose strategy rather than a standalone pilot.

"If we want to reduce overdose and save lives it is important that the actions we implement are evidence-based, coherent and consistent around the country," he said.

The issues of overdose deaths were discussed at a seminar yesterday involving Merchants Quay Ireland and the Ana Liffey Drug Project, a national addiction service working to reduce the harm caused by drug use in Ireland.

Ana Liffey provided direct services to more than 3,500 clients in 2012, many of whom are among the most marginalised from mainstream service provision.

cfeehan@herald.ie


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