Houghton gym introduces life-saving drug Naloxone after 9,500 overdoses in North East

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A gym has introduced the life-saving drug Naloxone to help save people who overdose in the area after finding out the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS) attended nearly 9,500 overdose incidents in the last year.

Naloxone is administered via injection into the thigh muscle and it can reverse the effects of an opiate-based overdose within minutes. They are used in police custody suites and hospitals but this is the first time an independent company in the town has introduced them.

Change Grow, Live is supplying Houghton-le-Spring gym Evolution Fitness with the drug. Glenn Crow, who works for the charity said it is easy to use and will save lives.

"We provide the kits," he told ITV Tyne Tees. "We’re into a lot of hostels now, pharmacies can now dispense them, hand them over.

"There’s no charge. You need a little bit of training, but it’s literally minutes and you've got heroin, fentanyl, nitazene, all strong powerful morphine-based drugs, so the sooner you can get naloxone into the system, if it’s an overdose, the better."

Evolution Gym in Hougton-le-Spring. Credit: ITV News

Michael Donkin, who owns the gym, told ITV Tyne Tees: "This kind of medication will be a lot more mainstream in the future. I think we’ll see a lot of it on the high street as we do with the defibrillators now and it was quite an obvious one when I found out that it was available to have it available because of our position on the high street.

"I think there’s upwards of 30,000 people in Houghton now, and, from time to time, people become poorly for various reasons, and I think one thing we’ve got to bear in mind is that it’s not just useful for illegal drugs, but prescription medications as well."

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, there were 2,219 drug poisoning deaths due to opiates in England and Wales in 2021.

Due to this uptick in overdose incidents, Mr Donkin obtained Freedom of Information figures from the North East Ambulance Service, which found the service attended 9,453 overdose incidents in the 12 months up to 31 October 2023, with 36 of those cases involving patients who died.

Those deaths could potentially have been averted if Naloxone had been in play. One gym user told ITV Tyne Tees: "I’d sooner it be here and not be used than obviously it was not here and someone needed it."

Naloxone kit next to a defibrillator Credit: ITV News

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