Although data are limited, an estimated 70,000-100,000 people die from opioid overdose each year. Opioid overdose was the main cause of the estimated 99,000-253,000 deaths worldwide related to illicit drug use in 2010.1 Opioid overdose is both preventable and, if witnessed, treatable (reversible). In its resolution 55/7 on promoting measures to prevent drug overdose, in particular opioid overdose, the Commission on Narcotic Drugs called upon Member States to include effective measures to prevent and treat drug overdose in national drug policies.2 In that resolution, the Commission requested the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), to collect and circulate available best practices on the prevention and treatment of and emergency response to drug overdose, in particular opioid overdose, including on the use and availability of opioid receptor antagonists such as naloxone and other measures based on scientific evidence.
This discussion paper outlines the facts about opioid overdose, the actions that can be taken to prevent and treat (reverse) opioid overdose and areas requiring further investigation.
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