A NEW program in Bendigo could save lives, as it teaches young people how to treat opioid overdoses.
Bendigo's Youth Support and Advocacy Service is training young people who use its services to administer naloxone, which counters the effect of opioid overdose.
It will be the first youth-specific service in Australia to offer the new overdose prevention program.
YSAS Mental Health and Addiction nurse practitioner Lee Kennedy said the program could potentially save the life of someone who had overdosed on drugs such as painkillers or heroin.
Mr Kennedy said training young people would extend the reach of knowledge about naloxone beyond the people who accessed YSAS services.
He said while naloxone was not yet available over the counter, training young people would build their capacity for when it became available.
Mr Kennedy said anyone identified as a high-risk for overdose would be given a prescription.
Naloxone prevents death from opioid overdoses by temporarily reversing the effects of the drug.
Bendigo Community Health Services began offering free prescriptions for a naloxone nasal spray in January.
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Workers said this was more user-friendly than the injectable version, which had been available for free for some time.
Mr Kennedy said naloxone connected with the body's receptors occupied by opioids, reversing their effect.
He compared the drug's use in an overdose situation to the equivalent of a defibrillator used for a heart attack.
Mr Kennedy said naloxone could counter the effect of heroin overdose, as well as accidental painkiller overdose, a growing cause of death.
He said responses from the young people trained to administer naloxone had been positive.
"People don't know how widespread opioid use is in the community in terms of the pain relief factor - it's not just drug users," Mr Kennedy said.
"A lot of people stigmatise it because they think 'It's their choice, who cares if they overdose'."
YSAS Naloxone trainer Crios O'Mahony said many drug overdose deaths could have been prevented if someone present was carrying naloxone and had been trained in how to use it.
Mr O'Mahony said naloxone could help keep someone breathing after an overdose, while medical help was on the way.
YSAS chief executive Andrew Bruun said the organisation had known too many young people to die unnecessarily from accidental overdose.
Mr Brunn said naloxone was only part of a solution, which required broader drug law reform and regulation of illicit substances.
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