Drug users in Australia are being trained how to inject a potentially life-saving medication in a bid to prevent people from dying over overdoses.

Naloxone, also known as Narcan, has been used by paramedics for years and can act rapidly to reverse the effects of heroin and pharmaceutical drugs like Oxycontin.

The pilot scheme began in Canberra 18 months ago with drug users being given a Naloxone kit - including a syringe, gloves and sharps container - and shown how to use it correctly.

So far about 130 kits have been handed out in the nation's capital and they are also being distributed in Sydney and Adelaide.

Those involved say lives have already been saved.

"The aim of the training program is to teach you how to manage the overdose risk factors and to give people a script of Naloxone to take home," said Nicole Wiggins, from the Canberra Alliance for Harm Minimisation and Advocacy.

"The research evidence shows that when there is a fatality, there are usually people present.

"Sometimes there are no interventions given before that person dies and the research also shows that people are willing and able to intervene, they just needs the tools and education."

Currently about 650 people die of opiod overdoses every year in Australia with experts predicting the number will rise by 50 annually.

Those who have used the kit said they no longer have to wait for an ambulance and that the scheme is saving lives.

Dr Ingrid van Beek, from Sydney's Kirketon Road Centre, is currently training people to use the kits and hopes to see them distributed nationwide in the near future.

"Ideally we would like to see this rolled out across Australia, into all sorts of places where opiod use occurs," she said.

"Particularly if we are to have an effect at a population level - that is the sort of coverage that we would like to achieve."

By introducing the initiative, Australia has followed in the footsteps of some states in the US and a collection of European countries.

While the scheme has won plaudits in many circles, Naloxone does have its critics.

Dr Alex Wodak, a retired addiction specialist who worked with drug users in Sydney for 30 years, is not convinced that enough research has been done.

"The evidence so far is very weak," he said. "We have a large number of studies of poor quality - just observational studies looking at what is happening.

"We don't have any control studies where one group gets the intervention and the other doesn't - though there is a study underway in the UK that is looking at this in a controlled way."

In response to Dr Wodak's concerns, Dr Van Beek says there is no doubt that Naloxone will save lives.

"It's very problematic to do what is clearly the right thing to do for want of high level research evidence," he said.

"Sometimes we've just got to do what makes common sense."

While Australia's overdose death rate is currently lower that it was in the late 1990s, experts have warned of a steady increased which is compounded by the boom in foreign heroin production.

"Almost all the heroin that ends up in Australia comes from Burma and production of opium from which heroin is made has been going up in Burma every year for the last six years," Dr Wodak said.

"(It has also) been going up in Afghanistan every year for the last three years.

"All that suggests to me is that we should be prepared for the possibility that heroin overdoses could sky rocket in Australia in the near future."

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