CREIDU Colloquium 2015: Five minute talk can save a life

October 2015

“Never underestimate the power of a brief induction of naloxone to people in prisons. There aren’t many interventions you can talk about in five minutes that can save someone’s life.” – Kirsten Horsburgh, keynote speaker at the Centre for Research Excellence into Injecting Drug Use (CREIDU) Colloquium 2015.

A diverse range of speakers from Scotland, England, NSW and Victoria shared their insights at this year’s CREIDU Colloquium centred on Prisons: Opportunities and challenges towards improving the health of people who inject drugs.

Keynote speaker, Scotland’s Kirsten Horsburgh, the National Naloxone Coordinator with the Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF), presented clear evidence that naloxone could save lives.

“An average of 558 lives are still lost every year in Scotland from overdose, but there has been a reduction in overdose deaths following release,” Ms Horsburgh said.

Scotland’s National Naloxone Programme began in 2010 and includes the provision of naloxone-on-release, in a person’s ‘valuables’ pack. Ms Horsburgh said it was important to prioritise naloxone to people who use drugs, normalise it in services, include training even if it is only a brief session, involve peers and save lives.

“It should be available to everybody who is accessing services, then reach out to the ones who are at risk,” Ms Horsburgh said.

“We know older, more experienced, injecting drug users are more likely to die.

“Our naloxone target is to reach 30 per cent of people with problem drug use by the end of March 2016.”

Burnet Institute’s Professor Paul Dietze, Head of Alcohol and other Drug Research in the Centre for Population Health, and a CREIDU Chief Investigator said Australia could learn from the Scottish experience.

“Scotland is a really good example of how they have rolled out naloxone and they have also been able to reduce the hepatitis C incidence in prisons,” he said.

“They also have effective mechanisms to bring about policy change and programmatic change.”

Hepatitis treatment within the Victorian prison system, treatment and prevention of hepatitis C in NSW prisons, and the complexities of harm reduction in custodial settings were explored by guest speakers Professor Alexander Thompson (St Vincent’s Hospital), Professor Andrew Lloyd (UNSW), and Ms Larissa Strong (Department of Justice & Regulation) and Mr Rod Wise (Corrections Victoria).

Professor Kate Dolan (UNSW) gave an international perspective on harm reduction in prison and Dr Eliot Ross Albers from the International Network of People Who Use Drugs, England discussed human rights issues for those incarcerated in a wide-ranging presentation. Mr John Ryan (Penington Institute) spoke about the experience of trying to introduce a prison needle exchange program into the ACT prison system and Ms Carol Nikakis (VACRO) explained how using positive strategies could be a pathway out of the criminal justice system.

Professor Matthew Hickman from the University of Bristol, England revealed new evidence, yet-to-be-published, of the evaluation of opioid substitution treatment in prison on preventing drug-related deaths following treatment on release.

Professor Dietze said some of these key findings could be translated to the Australian setting.

“We learnt a lot about how opioid substitution therapy can really impact on post-release mortality and we really need to be focusing on that,” Professor Dietze said.

“Our rates in Australia are too low in terms of how many people (prisoners) are on that opioid substitution therapy and we need to be moving towards targets that will really make a difference.

“I think the ways in which we are going to be able to administer hepatitis C treatment in prisons as the new direct acting antivirals come to the market is also going to be really interesting.”

Tracy Parish

Banner image: Ms. Kirsten Horsburgh, National Naloxone Coordinator, Scottish Drugs Forum

An average of 558 lives are still lost every year in Scotland from overdose, but there has been a reduction in overdose deaths following release.

Kirsten Horsburgh