FAMILIES of heroin addicts in Southampton are to be given emergency overdose kits to help cut the number of drugrelated deaths in the city.

The Daily Echo can reveal Southampton is one of 16 cities across the UK chosen to take part in the controversial six-month trial.

The move comes after there was 35 drugrelated deaths in the city in 2006 and 2007.

Opiates were the most common killer and the majority of the deaths were recorded as accidental by the coroner.

A single shot of the medicine naloxone – which is already used by paramedics and in casualty departments – can keep a user slipping into a potentially fatal coma alive for up to 20 minutes.

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Close family members or carers will be trained on how and when to administer the emergency injection, but addicts themselves will not be given access.

The scheme’s 35 participants, who have yet to be selected, will complete a one-day training course that will also include overdose prevention and first aid.

Southampton Drug Action Team models of care co-ordinator Colin McAllister said: “When someone overdoses they will have very shallow breathing, their pupils go small and their lips blue.

“The moment the naloxone is administered the reaction is almost instantaneous and really quite dramatic, but not a pleasant experience.”

Mr McAllister claimed the kits would not encourage riskier behaviour as its function was to reverse the effects of heroin and overdosing was a frightening experience.

Naloxone reverses the effects of a “high” by blocking the brain’s receptors, where drugs like heroin and narcotic painkillers bind.

“There is no evidence that anyone is going to use more heroin because they have got a back-up plan. Heroin is moderately expensive and you’re not going to overdose on purpose,” he said.

The kits have been credited with saving lives in Scotland under two pilot schemes, while similar action has cut deaths in New York and Chicago.

The results of the Southampton trial will be analysed at the end of the year before a final report is published.

Funded by the National Treatment Agency, the trial could lead to the kits being handed out across the country to help cut the number of fatal overdoses.

For drug abuse support call The Bridge on 023 8088 1400 or the Drug Intervention Programme on 023 8088 1409.