LIVES have 'potentially been saved' by a heroin antidote made available to drug users in the city.
Between April 2018 and March this year 255 Naloxone kits were distributed in Portsmouth, with reports of people using them 'to save the lives of friends.'
Naloxone is an opiate antidote, which can bring about recovery from a drug overdose allowing time for an ambulance to arrive.
The kits have been provided in the city as part of a £2.5m substance misuse treatment programme run by the Society of St James, and were first introduced in Portsmouth last year.
For the council's health cabinet member, Councillor Matthew Winnington, the kits were a 'significant investment.'
Speaking at a health and wellbeing meeting this week (Oct 3), where a report on the service was heard, he said: 'Naloxone has been used a number of times in supported housing projects to stop overdoses becoming deaths. This is testament to how important it is to have a resource like that.
'Potentially 255 people have been saved. Thats's a significant investment by the council. We really do believe having that as a harm reduction technique does make a difference especially as we have a number vulnerable people in the city.'
It comes as statistics showed the city had 87 drug related deaths between 2016 and 2018, at a rate of 14.9 per 100,000 people – higher than the national average of 6.7.
And of the 87 deaths in the city, 53 were down to misuse, meaning they involved illegal drugs, or were as a result of drug abuse or dependence.
Demand for clean needles also increased during 2018/19, with a total of 158,785 needles being distributed, up from 146,550 in the previous year.
At the meeting Alan Knobel, development manager for public health, said: 'We've seen an increase in the number of needles distributed - by 8.3 per cent. It's difficult to say that this is due to an increase in the number of drug users, it may be that the service is getting more uptake.'
Since 2013 funding for substance misuse programmes has dropped by 40 per cent.
Mr Knobel added: 'Despite significant reductions in treatment funding since 2013 the service is holding up reasonably well.'
The Society of St James programme also provides outreach work, substitute medication and community day rehab among other services.