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Prevention of overdoses

Project manager: Dagmar Hedrich


In 2012, the EMCDDA published the study 'Preventing opioid overdoses in Europe', on situational and organisational risk factors for overdoses and how they can be modified to reduce fatal outcomes.

In the European Union, each year between 7 000 and 8 000 acute drug deaths are reported. These deaths occur mainly among young individuals in their 20s or 30s with a history of injecting heroin use, and most are accidental overdoses. Injecting use of drugs is a major risk factor for fatal and non-fatal overdoses and in most cases of overdose deaths, opiates are present. However, polydrug use is very common and particularly the use of heroin in combination with other central nervous system depressants increases overdose risk. Drug users who have lost tolerance after a period of abstinence or reduced drug taking, and those who inject drugs alone, are at higher risk of dying from overdose.

A significant proportion of fatal and non-fatal overdoses could be avoided. Mortality risks from opioid overdose are substantially reduced among clients of methadone maintenance programmes. Innovative interventions in risk-settings such as prisons, and interventions that actively involve drug users themselves in overdose prevention and that increase their competence to manage overdoses they witness, are increasingly implemented.

This project aims at collecting, analysing and disseminating information about how heroin overdoses can be prevented and how those that occur can be managed better. The information shall support policy makers and practitioners in their efforts to develop and implement strategies and interventions to reduce drug-related deaths.

On 14 October 2014, the EMCDDA organised an event on Take home naloxone to reduce fatalities: scaling up a participatory intervention across Europe.

About the EMCDDA

The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) is the reference point on drugs and drug addiction information in Europe. Inaugurated in Lisbon in 1995, it is one of the EU's decentralised agencies. Read more >>

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Praça Europa 1, Cais do Sodré
1249-289 Lisbon
Tel. (351) 211 21 02 00

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Page last updated: Monday, 24 November 2014