Dr James Petty1
1Penington Institute , Carlton, Melbourne, Australia
Rates of opioid overdose are increasing in Australia, accounting for more deaths per year than the national road toll. The provision of naloxone, a medicine used in emergency settings to treat overdose, to at-risk populations is a proven means of reducing overdose-related mortality. However, due to concerns regarding illicit consumption of opioids, the implementation of this proven harm reduction strategy has been slow. Naloxone distribution programs have been successfully implemented in several international settings. These provide free naloxone to people likely to experience or witness an overdose. While there have been some changes to naloxone availability in Australia, challenges around access, demand, achieving sufficient coverage, stigma, and police support remain.
A desk-based review of international naloxone programs was conducted along with interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders. In this paper, a national model for a large-scale naloxone distribution program is proposed and barriers are identified and discussed. The model draws on existing trials and diverse approaches across jurisdictions to address access conditions, eligibility criteria for agencies, training, public awareness campaigns, program monitoring and legislative hurdles.
This model is intended to inform the development of a national naloxone distribution program or a network of state- and territory-based programs. A publicly funded naloxone program, as evident in other countries, can be implemented in Australia that offers naloxone free and by purchase from a range of settings to a range of clients as a means of reducing the public health burden associated with overdose.
James completed his PHD in Criminology at the University of Melbourne in 2017. His doctoral research examined the substantive criminalisation of homelessness in the Australian city of Melbourne. He has also conducted research into Victorian drug laws. James now works as a policy officer at the Penington Institute, a not-for-profit organisation that supports more effective and compassionate ways to respond to problematic substance use in the community. James’s recent work has focused on increasing community access to naloxone – a medicine that reverses opioid overdose when administered correctly.