A life-saving drug for people who have had an opioid overdose is being made more accessible in the island.

The drug, called Naloxone, is the emergency antidote for overdoses caused by heroin and other opiates or opioids such as methadone, morphine, fentanyl and codeine.

According to the Alcohol and Drug Policy Commission, opiates are chemical compounds that are extracted or refined from natural plant matter (poppy sap and fibres), and opioids are chemical compounds that generally are not derived from natural plant matter.

Naloxone is not just for illicit drug use. It’s for opioid prescription use as well.

According to the government’s public health department, the main life-threatening effect of heroin and other opiates is to slow down and stop breathing. Naloxone blocks this effect and reverses the breathing difficulties.

While naloxone was first introduced in the island in 2016, which was available from the Drug and Alcohol Team, the recently-created Isle of Man Naloxone Programme aims to expand access, so it is more readily available to those who may need it.

Kieran Malone, the national take home naloxone co-ordinator at the public health department,said: ‘From 2016 to 2017, the Drug and Alcohol Team piloted the Take-Home Naloxone Programme, however, it was restricted to patients on their caseload.

‘The aim of the programme now is to extend the equity and access to naloxone through a variety of services.’

There are two types of naloxone kits that are available, an injection and a nasal spray, previously only the injection kits were available in the island.

The effect of both types of kits is the same, it is up to preference as to which kits people take home.

Mr Malone said: ‘We want the kits in the hands of as many people at risk of, or likely to witness an opioid overdose, so naloxone is readily available at the time of a suspected opioid overdose.’

Kits are currently available from the Drug and Alcohol Team, charity Motiv8 Addiction Services, and there are peer drop-in sessions across the island, which are supported by Motiv8.

Mr Malone said that in the near future kits will be available from the Community Mental Health Services for Adults (CMHSA), the Crisis Home Response Team, Mannannan Court for patients ready for discharge and at risk of an opioid overdose, paramedics, emergency department and to prisoners at risk of an opioid overdose supplied upon discharge.

The kits are free, and when individuals are given kits, a quick training session is provided.

Mr Malone said: ‘Legally, anyone can administer naloxone injection and nasal naloxone but only in the instance of a life-saving emergency.

‘However, when anyone obtains a supply of naloxone they will receive training in risk factors of opioid overdose, spotting the signs and symptoms of an opioid overdose, how to respond to an opioid overdose, and how to assemble and administer their chosen formulation of naloxone (either Prenoxad pre-filled syringe for intramuscular injection or Nyxoid nasal spray).

‘The training includes having a go at using a demonstration kit to practice administration.’

Pauline Prescott, substance misuse nurse in the drug and alcohol team, added: ‘‘Naloxone will not have any adverse effects if you administer it and its not actually an opioid overdose.’

Mr Malone added: ‘If the individual is dependent on opioids, they may experience increased withdrawal symptoms.

‘You cannot overdose on naloxone.

According to public health, drug-related deaths have been rising in the Isle of Man in past years, and opioids have played a significant role. There were 99 drug-related deaths from 2006 to 2021 (based on year of death registration).

Two employees at Motiv8 know all too well the importance of naloxone.

Mark Cromwell, addictions professional at Motiv8, said: ‘After leaving prison having had a break from drugs, I thought I could use substances again at normal levels, however this wasn’t the case and I overdosed.

‘Thankfully, someone had the good sense to call an ambulance and I was revived by Naloxone.

‘Naloxone saved my life and I hope it goes onto save the lives of others.’


Jason Mckee, a peer mentor at Motiv8, said: ‘I lost a friend 22 years ago and Naloxone was not around. If this had been around, he’d be here today.

‘For me to be able to help people, I think this is quite empowering. Whether you’re a significant other, or you take opiates yourself make sure, you do have a kit, and that it’s accessible to people around you, if you’re in circles, or in the home.’

Mr Malone added: ‘There is no evidence that widening the availability of naloxone will increase drug use or risky drug use.’

Mr Cromwell added: ‘Get a kit, carry a kit, save a life.’

Thea Ozenturk, chief executive officer at Motiv8, said: ‘As the island’s charity supporting those impacted by addiction our team have all been fully trained in supplying these kits to anyone who contacts us.

‘We would encourage people to call us on freephone 0808 1624 627 to speak to our team about arranging a time to come, have training and collect a kit.

‘These kits are about preventing opioid overdose deaths and to open the door for those seeking help and support for themselves or someone they care for.’