Taxi drivers

Edinburgh taxi drivers help tackle drug-related deaths as they set to use life-saving naloxolone

Edinburgh taxi drivers have been offered the opportunity to be equipped and trained to use life-saving anti-overdose drugs to prevent drug-related deaths.

The capital’s largest operator, Central Taxis, and their drivers have all been approached to carry out the training needed to transport the drug naloxone in their taxis.

As taxi drivers cover large areas in the region and serve different communities on a daily basis, they are often susceptible to overdose before an ambulance is called.

It is hoped that drivers who complete the necessary training and carry naloxone in their taxis will be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of an overdose and administer naloxone before an ambulance arrives.

Naloxone temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, which could mean the difference between life and death while waiting for emergency services.

The initiative was launched by the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) as part of the Stop the Deaths campaign.

The Stop the Deaths campaign was launched by the Scottish Government and the Scottish Drugs Forum, which aims to reduce stigma and raise awareness of how to recognize and respond to drug overdose.

In February this year, more than 20 Glasgow taxi drivers signed up to carry the life-saving drug, and inspired by its success, Julie McCartney, head of drug harm reduction at SAS for the East Region , worked with Central Taxis to encourage a similar campaign in Lothiens.

She said: “Public knowledge and understanding is key as we seek to tackle the stigma around drug use and encourage a compassionate approach to those who are vulnerable and need our help. This is part of a wider catalog of Scottish Ambulance Service work to maximize every opportunity to help people who use drugs access treatment and support directly from the scene of an emergency.

Murray Fleming, company secretary at Central Taxis, added: “Our drivers are out and about 24 hours a day and truly are the eyes and ears of the city. We had a terrific initial response from drivers who signed up to take the training, carry naloxone and play their part in the Stop The Deaths initiative.

“We already provide a rescue service for the NHS and Ambulance service in Edinburgh and see ourselves as the fourth emergency service.”

As part of this initiative, SAS is also working with its partners Edinburgh Alcohol and Drug Partnership (EADP), Scottish Drugs Forum (SDF) and Scottish Families Affected by Alcohol and Drugs (SFAD).

The SDF provides free access to online naloxone training for drivers, and the naloxone kits are provided by the SFAD, which will use its click and deliver service to distribute them to drivers who request them.

Suzanne Gallagher, Naloxone Manager at SFAD, said: “We welcome Edinburgh Central Taxis promoting the naloxone campaign and carrying the life-saving drug.

“Since the launch of the Glasgow Taxi, we have already seen the impact this has had on the general public wanting to transport naloxone and requesting it through our nationwide click and delivery service.

“Taxi drivers speak to so many people around the clock and are well placed to support our vulnerable communities in the event of an emergency. We encourage anyone interested in bringing a kit to take a look at our website where they can access an e-learning course on how to administer naloxone and request their own kit.

Angela Constance, Minister for Drugs Policy for the Scottish Government, said: “I welcome this joint initiative by SAS and Edinburgh taxi drivers which will save more lives through the use of emergency treatment naloxone.

“The response to the Stop The Deaths campaign by the Scottish Drugs Forum and the Scottish Government earlier this year has been very encouraging and as well as saving lives we hope it has helped reduce the stigma of those at risk overdose and those with a drug use problem more broadly.

“Naloxone is one of a wide range of measures used to address the public health emergency of drug-induced deaths, but it plays an important role and I hope people will continue to visit the website” Stop The Deaths “to learn more.”

There were 1,007 suspected drug-related deaths in Scotland in the first nine months of 2021, according to official statistics.

Previous figures released by the National Records of Scotland revealed 1,339 drug-related deaths in 2020 – a 5% increase on statistics from the previous year, which is the highest number since records began in 1996 .

The country continues to have the worst drug-related death rate in Europe, with 21.2 deaths per 1,000 people, more than three and a half times higher than the rest of the UK.