Effectiveness of Scotland's National Naloxone Programme for reducing opioid-related deaths: a before (2006-10) versus after (2011-13) comparison

Addiction. 2016 May;111(5):883-91. doi: 10.1111/add.13265. Epub 2016 Feb 4.


Aims: To assess the effectiveness for Scotland's National Naloxone Programme (NNP) by comparison between 2006-10 (before) and 2011-13 (after NNP started in January 2011) and to assess cost-effectiveness.

Design: This was a pre-post evaluation of a national policy. Cost-effectiveness was assessed by prescription costs against life-years gained per opioid-related death (ORD) averted.

Setting: Scotland, in community settings and all prisons.

Intervention: Brief training and standardized naloxone supply became available to individuals at risk of opioid overdose.

Measurements: ORDs as identified by National Records of Scotland. Look-back determined the proportion of ORDs who, in the 4 weeks before ORD, had been (i) released from prison (primary outcome) and (ii) released from prison or discharged from hospital (secondary). We report 95% confidence intervals for effectiveness in reducing the primary (and secondary) outcome in 2011-13 versus 2006-10. Prescription costs were assessed against 1 or 10 life-years gained per averted ORD.

Findings: In 2006-10, 9.8% of ORDs (193 of 1970) were in people released from prison within 4 weeks of death, whereas only 6.3% of ORDs in 2011-13 followed prison release (76 of 1212, P < 0.001; this represented a difference of 3.5% [95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.6-5.4%)]. This reduction in the proportion of prison release ORDs translates into 42 fewer prison release ORDs (95% CI = 19-65) during 2011-13, when 12,000 naloxone kits were issued at current prescription cost of £225,000. Scotland's secondary outcome reduced from 19.0 to 14.9%, a difference of 4.1% (95% CI = 1.4-6.7%).

Conclusions: Scotland's National Naloxone Programme, which started in 2011, was associated with a 36% reduction in the proportion of opioid-related deaths that occurred in the 4 weeks following release from prison.

Keywords: Before/after policy evaluation; causality; effectiveness; national naloxone programme; opioid-related deaths; prison release opioid-related deaths; statistical power; take-home naloxone.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / economics
  • Analgesics, Opioid / poisoning*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Naloxone / economics
  • Naloxone / therapeutic use*
  • Narcotic Antagonists / economics
  • Narcotic Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / economics
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / mortality
  • Opioid-Related Disorders / rehabilitation*
  • Prisoners
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Narcotic Antagonists
  • Naloxone