19 September 2017 - Worldwide, overdose is the leading cause of avoidable death among people who inject drugs. Opioid overdose is both preventable and, if witnessed, reversible through the administration of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, which rapidly reverses the effects of opioids.
In this context, UNODC and the World Health Organization (WHO) recently hosted a regional meeting in Almaty, Kazakhstan, shortly after the International Overdose Awareness Day, to review and discuss the draft of the S-O-S Multi-site Study and Implementation Protocol on community management of opioid overdose .
During the event, UNODC and WHO presented the S-O-S Initiative (to Stop Overdose Safely), which was developed in response to the 2016 General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem, and the Commission on Narcotic Drugs resolution 55/7 on "Promoting measures to prevent drug overdose, in particular opioid overdose," as well as the 2014 Guidelines on Community Management of Opioid Overdose.
At the same meeting, Kirsten Horsburgh from the Scottish Drugs Forum shared national experiences while Rebecca McDonald from King's College London presented the final draft of the S-O-S Study Protocol.
The initiative's targets include saving lives by making naloxone and training on overdose management available to all potential first responders, including peers and family members. The initiative sets a global implementation target of 90-90-90 as a joint point of reference: i) 90 per cent of the relevant target population will have received training in overdose risk and emergency management; ii) 90 per cent of those trained will have been given a supply of emergency naloxone; iii) 90 per cent of those who have been given a naloxone supply will be carrying the naloxone on them or have it close at hand.
At this three-day event, participants representing Ministry of Health, civil society and academia from all project countries as well as international experts in the field of overdose management reviewed the protocol and discussed the next steps needed for its implementation at the country level, including the selection of sites and national coordination mechanisms. Implementation and data collection is expected to take place in 2018.
The S-O-S Initiative, promoting the expanded community management of opioid overdose, was launched by UNODC and WHO at the CND 2017. United Nations Member States and other stakeholders are encouraged to work towards universal coverage of opioid overdose management strategies including naloxone. The Protocol on community management of opioid overdose is open to countries that wish to join this multi-country study with their resources.