Emergency response to drug overdose

Ambulance clinicians issue life-saving kits.

Almost two thirds of Scotland’s ambulance clinicians have been trained in supplying Take-Home Naloxone (THN) to people who may witness an overdose. 

The roll-out of Take-Home Naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, is being overseen by three Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) Drug Harm Reduction Leads covering the North, East and West of Scotland, funded by the Drug Deaths Taskforce. This is an extension of the Scottish Government’s existing Naloxone Programme. 

A total of 65% of crews are now giving THN kits to people who have been resuscitated following an accidental overdose or family and friends who may have to administer Naloxone in the future. The remainder of the clinicians will be trained through the second half of 2021. Around 80 kits are currently being supplied to those at risk and their families every month. These kits can be used at any future overdose while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. 

SAS is also working closely with health boards, treatment services and people with lived and living experience to connect people who use drugs with appropriate support services. 

Meeting the three Harm Reduction Leads in Glasgow, Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance said: 

“I want to thank the Scottish Ambulance Service for the amazing job they do every day to save lives. The roll-out of Naloxone training has no doubt resulted in many lives being saved. 

“Naloxone is one of a wide range of measures being used to address the public health emergency of drugs deaths, but it plays an important role and allows those supplying the kits to connect people who use drugs and their families with appropriate local services. 

“Of course, we want to help people long before they get to the point of a life-threatening overdose. We are working hard to increase the number of people in treatment and £4 million is going specifically towards the implementation of the new MAT (Medication Assisted Treatment) standards which ensure everyone has access to the support which works best for them. Same day support will begin to be rolled out from this autumn with all of the standards in place by April next year. 

“Over the next five years we will spend £250 million on addressing this crisis and I am determined that every penny of this additional funding will make a difference to all those affected by drug use in Scotland.” 

SAS Drug Harm Reduction Lead for West Region Lauren Sloey said:

“The Scottish Ambulance Service has a presence in every community in Scotland, 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.  Due to the demand from patients experiencing overdose from drug use across our communities, and reflecting our unique reach into people’s homes, we are focused on what we can do to positively influence a reduction in drug deaths across Scotland.  

“As well as supplying Take Home Naloxone at the point of non-fatal overdose, SAS is also connecting individuals directly with support and treatment services at the point they need it the most, turning our emergency responses into continuous care pathways for people who use drugs. This has the potential to benefit not only the individual but wider family and friends to optimise their health and wellbeing." 

 SAS Patient Safety Manager Gary Rutherford said:

“We are pleased to welcome to the Service our three new Clinical Effectiveness Leads for Drug Harm Reduction, who each have significant experience of working within drug support and treatment services. They are playing a vital part in the roll-out of our national programme to ensure all ambulance clinicians are trained to supply Take Home Naloxone to anyone likely to witness at overdose.   

“We’re also increasing our partnership working with health boards, and drug treatment and support services, as engagement with these services is a proven protective factor in reducing drug deaths. Together we can ensure we’re focused on saving lives and positively improving health and wellbeing across Scotland.”  


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