Overdose kits to be distributed to drug users

The opposition remains sceptical of a new government plan to help drug addicts save one another before the ambulance arrives

From the beginning of next year, the government will launch a new initiative in the struggle against drug-related deaths. In collaboration with far-left support party Enhedslisten (EL), the government has decided to set aside six million kroner for so-called ‘overdose kits’ that are intended to aid hard-core drug abusers.

The kit will contain revival equipment and doses of the drug Naloxon, which is used to counter the effects of an opiate overdose. In the case of overdose, the kits are to be administered by fellow drug addicts until the arrival of the ambulance.

City Council has provided overdose kits to drub abusers as part of a trial and according to the health minister, Astrid Krag (Socialistisk Folkeparti), the results have been positive.

“Our experience is that it really made a difference and that’s why we’ve decided to act on it now. We’ve already established an injection room and I expect that this will also have an effect,” Krag told Politiken newspaper.

Only about a month ago that state announced that ‘heroin pills’ aimed at reducing overdoses, injuries and incidences of cancer would be available in 2013.

Just this week, the country’s first stationary injection room opened up for business in Vesterbro on October 1, much to the consternation of the inhabitants of the area. Copenhagen's deputy mayor for social affairs, Mikkel Warming (EL), has also indicated that he hopes to have injection rooms established in Nørrebro, Nordvest and Amager in the future.

Denmark continues to rank high in Europe when it comes to drug-related mortality, and the number of deaths continues to rise. There were 252 deaths in 2002 and 273 in 2010, the vast majority being overdoses.

Stine Brix, the health spokesperson for EL, maintained that the overdose kits were to be integrated into the current treatment programme.

“It’s important to join the two programmes so that these survival packages don’t stand alone. This is about harm reduction for the most vulnerable abusers so it’s a collective effort,” Brix told Politiken.

But the new strategy has been met with scepticism by the opposition, who contend that the funds could have been spent more wisely.

“Many of the people that die inject alone, and that’s why I doubt that this initiative will work in the real world. If you’re with someone who ODs, you can call 112 for an ambulance who will administer the antidote,” Tom Behnke, spokesperson for Konservative, told Politiken. “I won’t oppose it if it has an effect, but the money could have been used in a better way.”

Besides the kits, there is 2 million kroner set aside to investigate drug-related deaths and to ascertain whether the abuser had been in contact with authorities and to what degree before their death. Similar studies in Norway have indicated that the majority of drug-induced deaths occur at home, conveying that the injection room alone is inadequate.

“The studies point to new initiatives with new knowledge. They cater to saving the lives of some of the most vulnerable citizens in Denmark,” Krag told Politiken.

Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokratene) pledged to provide more assistance to the nation's hard-luck residents during her opening parliamentary speech on Tuesday and the funds for the new initiatives stem from this year's financial budget.

It is estimated that there are about 33,000 drug users in Denmark, 13,000 of whom are injection users.

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