Frontline gardaí could be given medication to reverse heroin and methadone overdoses, cutting user deaths, under measures being examined by Garda HQ.
The HSE said it hoped the provision of naloxone and the necessary training of gardaí could be progressed.
It comes as Police Scotland decided last week to provide naloxone to its 12,000 officers following successful trials by police of the spray form of the treatment.
In a statement to the Irish Examiner, the Garda Press Office said: “The administration of naloxone is being considered by An Garda Síochána as part of our commitment to the National Drugs Strategy. No decision has been made at this time."
The HSE is supporting the move and said in a statement: “The HSE is open to discussing a collaborative approach with An Garda Síochána in relation to the training of staff and the provision of naloxone and are hopeful that this could be progressed via the structures of the National Drug & Alcohol Strategy.”
Naloxone is used to counter overdoses from opiates drugs, such as heroin and methadone. It can keep the person alive until an ambulance arrives and can be administered in injection or nasal spray form.
Of the 376 fatal overdoses in 2017, 95 involved methadone and 77 involved heroin.
Damien McCarthy, a member of the central executive committee of the Garda Representative Association, backed the idea.
“Our function at the end of the day is to preserve life," he said.
"I know in the Dublin South Central division we would welcome the organisation’s interest in it.
We are often the first responders at a scene of an overdose. It is being used by other police forces. If we are trained in it and we could save one life that would be a success in my books.”
Tony Duffin of the Ana Liffey Drug Project said his staff in the Mid-West and Dublin have “successfully reversed” overdoses with naloxone many times.
“There are law enforcement officers in other jurisdictions, like Scotland, that carry and administer naloxone — this is to be commended,” he said.
“Police officers can be the first on the scene when someone has overdosed. Carrying naloxone is a great tool to have for anyone in that situation.”
The HSE highlighted a “significant increase” in the provision of naloxone, from 1,950 units in 2019 to 4,946 in 2020.
It said training took place in all CHO areas in 2021, including within the Irish Prison Service.
Source: Cormac O'Keeffe, The Irish Examiner, 28/02/22