Police in Northampton and Kettering will be equipped with a nasal spray that can save the lives of drug overdose victims.
Northamptonshire Police is taking part in a 12-month pilot project, working with UK Health Security Agency and and charity Change Grow Live to train and equip selected officers with Nyxoid, a spray containing the active substance naloxone.
Naloxone temporarily reverses the potentially deadly effects of opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenorphine and morphine.
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Officers from the Northampton Central and Kettering neighbourhood police teams will be authorised to use of the spray, along with Armed Response Vehicle crews.
DCI Steve Watkins, who heads up the latest force week of action targeting drug harm, said the spray has already been successfully trialled by other UK forces including in the West Midlands and Scotland.
He said: “Sadly, we are encountering more drug overdose victims, in part due to the proliferation in the use of highly dangerous synthetic drugs.
“Naloxone gives frontline officers an opportunity to administer a vital lifeline to users who have overdosed on heroin or heroin cut with synthetic drugs.
“The uptake will be on a voluntary basis but at the end of the pilot we will explore the impact of the trial to determine whether we continue to equip officers going forward.”
Northamptonshire Police says it has seen an increase in the number of drug-related deaths from synthetic opioids, including isotonitazene and fentanyl.
These drugs act in a similar way to heroin and are highly addictive but, unlike heroin, they are entirely synthetic — and about 500 times more potent.
While so-called street heroin overdoses remain relatively common, regular users do build up a tolerance in the brain.
However, the body’s restriction on breathing does not build as quickly and street heroin, when mixed with opioids such as fentanyl, puts users at extreme risk of fatal overdose.
The Nyxoid nasal spray delivers naloxone up the nose where it is quickly absorbed and stops the drug from affecting a body.
Reaction is usually very quick and prevents the opioid from blocking the breathing centres of the brain which would cause suffocation — the main cause of death in opioid overdose – buying valuable time to keep the subject alive pending arrival of emergency paramedics.
Officers in Birmingham began carrying the medicine in 2019 following publication of a hard-hitting report from the local Police and Crime Commissioner, which revealed one death in the region due to drug poisoning every three days and that the impact of drugs was costing the taxpayer around £1.4 billion a year.
Another trial was launched in Wales last December.
PC Gareth Rees, one of several officers across the Dyfed-Powys force carrying Nyxoid, used the spray after being called to an overdose late one night.
He said: “Within five to ten seconds he was conscious. It’s quite amazing how it works so quickly, it definitely made a difference for this man.”