PRISONS: Pioneering prison project to help reduce drugs deaths

By Lucy Ashton

Prisoners leaving Barlinnie Prison are being offered a life-saving nasal inhaler which can save the life of someone who has an opioid overdose.

Nyxoid is a nasal spray version of naloxone which temporarily reverses the effects of opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl, oxycodone, buprenomorphine and morphine. When administered, it buys time for emergency services to provide appropriate treatment for someone who is having an overdose .

Now, as part of a pilot project, prisoners who are set to be releases from Barlinnie Prison are being offered Nyxoid – and training on how to use it – before being released back into the community. It follows from an existing programme which has seen 11 prisoners trained as peer mentors to explain the benefits of naloxone to other prisoners as part of attempts to reduce Glasgow and Scotland’s drug deaths.

Rhoda MacLeod, who heads up the programme from Glasgow City Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “This is a real game-changer and potential life-saver as we all work to reduce drug deaths across Scotland. Our teams meet with every person leaving prison and offer them this naloxone spray.

“If they have this to hand, and find someone with an overdose in their community, then it can be quickly and easily administered before an ambulance is called. Our hope is that lives will be saved as a result.”

The pilot project follows work in the prison to train inmates on how to recognise an overdose and what to do when they find someone in that position. Drugs harm reduction teams, with funding from the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce, have been working with prisoners, training them on how to administer naloxone – and supporting their peers to do the same.

The symptoms of an overdose include, breathing problems, severe sleepiness and no responding to a loud noise or touch.

Professor Catriona Matheson, Chair of the Scottish Drug Deaths Taskforce recently visited the prison to see some of the work.

She said: “The the engagement and commitment of all involved, from peer mentors to senior management, demonstrates how successful these interventions can be and I want to thank all involved for their drive to deliver positive results.

“During my visit to Barlinnie, I spoke to some of the peer mentors and it was clear that they believe this project will make a difference – other prisoners are more likely to engage with a peer and therefore not only have a supply of naloxone on their liberation, but know how to use it – potentially saving their own or someone else’s life. 

“I was also impressed with the opportunities being built onto the initiative to encourage further development of training and qualification post release. The evidence tells us that release from prison is a time when people are more vulnerable to a fatal drug overdose so this project will save lives.”

A full evaluation of the project in Barlinnie is being developed and already, the peer support training is being rolled out to other prisons, including HMP Low Moss and HMP Greenock.

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