Recognising the warning signs of a drug overdose
Friends and family of substance misusers are being urged to recognise the warning signs which could signal a fatal drug overdose.
Fife Drug Death Monitoring and Strategic Groups, part of Fife Alcohol and Drug Partnership, are encouraging people to be alert to ‘deep sleep snoring’ – a key sign of a potential overdose.
Fatal overdoses are usually caused by individuals consuming a cocktail of alcohol, heroin and diazepam. One common theme uncovered by the Fife Drug Death Monitoring and Strategic Groups is that most drug deaths occur in the presence of other individuals, meaning there may have been an opportunity to recognise a potential overdose and get medical help.
Difficulty in waking an intoxicated individual up from a deep sleep accompanied by the individual making a deep snoring noise can be a sign that they might be in the process of dying from a drug overdose.
Dr Alex Baldacchino, Chair of the Fife Drug Death Monitoring and Strategic Groups, said: “If friends or family hear this deep snoring noise on a person whom they suspect has taken a cocktail of alcohol, sedatives such as benzodiazepine and heroin or other strong pain killers, the advice is to phone 999 immediately. This phone call might save a life.
“Recognising that there are common themes with drug deaths, such as that families and friends are not always aware of overdose signs, has helped increase the understanding why drug deaths happen and how we can continue to reduce these types of tragic events in Fife.”
Fife has been at the forefront of reducing the number of drug deaths with an innovative programme which has seen partner agencies sharing and analysing information on drug death incidents to help identify and minimise risk factors.
The number of drug deaths in both 2010 and 2011 was 24, down from 26 in 2009 and 31 in 2008.
Sgt David Hayes, Fife Constabulary, said: “The Monitoring and Strategic Groups relating to drugs deaths are extremely valuable in that there is a vast wealth of experience and knowledge with a view to implement change. We will continue to work closely with partners, identify learning points and strive towards reducing drugs deaths.”
Dougie Dunlop, Head of Children Services and Criminal Justice, Fife Council, said: “We are committed to working with our partners to help drive down the number of deaths caused by drug overdoses. Information is key if we are to help people whose lives are touched by drug addiction. Making people aware of the warning signs which could signal a fatal drug overdose is an important step in this programme of work and could save lives.”
Fife has also implemented the national programme for ‘take home’ Naloxone to at-risk individuals.
Over 200 doses of this lifesaving anti-overdose drug have been issued in the last 9 months in Fife, with services made aware of a number of people whose life has been saved by being given this drug whilst in an unconscious state.
All drug and alcohol recovery services in Fife can provide information and advice on preventing and responding to potential overdose situations. The lead agency in Fife is Addaction, based in Glenrothes, who can be contacted on 0800 917 9211.
A weekly drop in clinic for issuing Naloxone to at-risk individuals and their families is held at Whyteman’s Brae Hospital, Kirkcaldy, on Wednesday afternoons between 2.15pm-4.15pm. For further information about this clinic contact Fife NHS Addiction Services on (01592) 716446.