Tribune. While the United States still fails to emerge from the opioid crisis, the United Kingdom is experiencing a growing number of fatal overdoses related to legal and illegal opioids. When it comes to drugs, the United Kingdom gives the “la”. France and continental Europe are therefore not immune to a crisis in synthetic opioids from the clandestine market or from the diversion or misuse of prescribed opioids. However, we are not ready to face such a crisis.
In France, the latest figures for 2019 reported by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products (ANSM) make methadone, a legally prescribed replacement drug, the leading cause of overdose mortality (178 deaths), followed by heroin (114 deaths) and cocaine (77 deaths). In all, 503 deaths were observed in 2019, 84% of which were caused by opioids. And the figures for the Covid-19 period are not yet known … These deaths are preventable provided that a coherent and effective prevention policy is adopted.
Naloxone is the antidote that neutralizes the effects of an opioid overdose and therefore saves lives. For it to have a real impact on public health, it must be distributed in pharmacies in all its forms (intramuscularly as well as nasal spray) and available in first aid kits of emergency devices. In the event of an overdose, the people around you are the first to intervene. Users and their families must therefore have wide access to naloxone. This is a crucial point.
Today, the majority of overdose victims do not consume illicit drugs but licit, legally prescribed drugs.
We regret that the government prefers to favor cannabis “prevention” campaigns, most often as incantatory as ineffective (remember, moreover, that there is not a single death per year by cannabis), too often forgetting to seriously develop the only functional prevention in terms of the lives and deaths of users: that of the reduction of risks and damages linked to drug use.
We need a pilot on the plane of the risk reduction policy in France. We must support front-line workers who are sometimes unfairly criticized. Whatever one thinks of the organization of rave parties in the midst of the Covid epidemic, the recent example of an association intervening on an illegal party and ordered to provide information on its promoters under penalty of a criminal conviction demonstrates how inconsistent public intervention is.
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