Feasibility into the provision of naloxone to heroin users for peer administration as a prevention of fatal heroin-related overdose

  • Research program: Harm reduction policy and strategies
  • Project status: Completed
  • Start date: July 1998
  • Expected end date: July 1999
  • Completion date: March 2001
  • Funded by: Health Department of WA
  • Lead organisation:

Heroin overdose is a major cause of death among heroin users and non-fatal heroin overdoses are common. Most deaths attributed to heroin overdose occur in the company of others, mostly other users, and witnesses to fatal overdose rarely call an ambulance or seek help, often because of concern about police being involved. Research suggests that instant death following injecting is rare yet in some cases users have died more than 3 hours after injection. In most cases of Ôheroin overdoseÕ either or both of the CNS depressants benzodiazepines or alcohol were present in the blood. Naloxone hydrochloride is an injectable narcotic antagonist which reverses the respiratory, sedation and hypotension effects of acute narcosis. Some experts have suggested that naloxone hydrochloride be provided to heroin users for administration by their peers in an overdose situation. The current project, funded by the Health Department of WA aims to determine the feasibility of conducting a trial of the provision of naloxone to heroin users for peer administration and to design such a trial. The project will include a literature review, establishment of an expert key informant group, data collection with heroin users, addressing medico-legal and supply issues, developing and piloting a protocol for administration, and trial design.

Name & Contact Details Role Research Program Location
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Professor Simon Lenton
Tel: 61 (0)8 9266 1603
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Chief Investigator

Harm reduction policy and strategies


  • Project staff: Kim Hargreaves, Curtin University

Lenton, S., Dietze, P., Degenhardt, L., Darke, S. and Butler, T. (2009). Naloxone for administration by peers in cases of heroin overdose. Medical Journal of Australia, 198, (8), pp. 469. DOI: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2009.tb02891.x [RJ685] View web page

Lenton, S., Dietze, P., Degenhardt, L., Darke, S. and Butler, T. (2009). Now is the time to take steps to allow peer access to naloxone for heroin overdose in Australia. Drug and Alcohol Review, 28, (6), pp. 583-585. DOI: 10.1111/j.1465-3362.2009.00125.x [RJ702] View web page

Lenton, S. (2008). Commentary: Case for peer naloxone further strengthened. Addiction, 103, pp. 1658-9. [RJ623]

Hargreaves, K., M., Lenton, S., Phillips, M. and Swensen, G. (2002). Potential impacts on the incidence of fatal heroin-related overdose in Western Australia: A time series analysis. Drug and Alcohol Review, 21, (4), pp. 321-327. DOI: 10.1080/0959523021000023162 [RJ384] View web page

Hargreaves, K., M. and Lenton, S. (2001). The Naloxone Feasibility Study. National Drug Research Institute, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Western Australian. [T89]

Lenton, S. and Hargreaves, K., M. (2000). Editorial: A trial of naloxone for peer administration has merit, but will the lawyers let it happen? Drug and Alcohol Review, 19, (4), pp. 365-369. [RJ353] View web page

Lenton, S. and Hargreaves, K., M. (2000). Should we conduct a trial of distributing naloxone to heroin users for peer administration to prevent fatal overdose? Medical Journal of Australia, 173, (4), pp. 260-263. [RJ326] View web page