OHID issues new guidance on dealing with synthetic opioid threats

Updated guidance for commissioners and local services on preparing for, and responding to, incidents involving fentanyl and nitazenes has been issued by OHID.

Fentanyls are still causing ‘significant issues’

Fentanyls are still causing ‘significant issues’ in the US and Canada, and there are signs that they are being seen more often in local drug markets in the UK, the agency states. Local areas need to plan for how they will ‘rapidly understand and assess’ the risk of any future threats, as well as do everything they can to review their arrangements to minimise the potential impact. This includes improving local drug information systems and naloxone supply.

‘Areas should work through existing mechanisms for emergency preparation, response and recovery to develop a plan that can be enacted quickly in the event of an incident,’ the guidance states. ‘This may benefit from working with or through the local resilience forum and local health resilience partnership.’

Synthetic opioids can be found in different formats including fake oxycodone tablets

Synthetic opioids are both actively sought by people buying drugs and added to street heroin without buyers’ knowledge. They can also be found in fake oxycodone tablets or occasionally in other drugs. In the event of any threat, local areas need to rapidly understand how many people are affected and in which neighbourhoods – including those in neighbouring council areas –along with the numbers of overdoses or deaths. This information can come from police, emergency departments, drug services and the local drug information system (LDIS) or professional information network (PIN), as well as testing.

The information will then need to be shared with ambulance trusts as well as treatment, harm reduction and outreach services, and people who use drugs. ‘You should target messages at the audiences most likely to be at risk and the places you are most likely to reach them, the guidance says. ‘In most cases, it will be people who use drugs and are not in treatment who are at most risk, and you will need to make greater efforts to reach them,’ including enhanced targeted outreach.

Areas also need to implement a clear incident response plan that incorporates business continuity and risk assessment, it adds. ‘Your OHID regional team can provide advice and expertise in preparing for, or activating, a response to an incident caused by potent synthetic opioids.’

 Guidance for local areas on planning to deal with potent synthetic opioids available here

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