Beyond Rx

Part II: The Dark Narcs – Addressing opioid overdoses

EDITOR’S NOTE: In her column Beyond Rx, Andrea Wong, a 4th year Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) candidate from the University of Waterloo, and a very new member to the Manitoulin community, will be exploring topics on health and wellness, medical advances, and everything in between in the pages of this newspaper. In her first column, Ms. Wong explores the current opioid crisis that is plaguing our nation.

by Andrea Wong

The opioid overdoses are increasing across Canada and it is killing more people than motor vehicle accidents. In response, the province has implemented the provision of free naloxone kits as a harm reduction program. Harm reduction is not condoning or approving drug use or illegal activities, but aims to minimize the death, disease, and injury from these behaviours. Some may argue that harm reduction programs provide a “safety net” that encourage people to use more drugs or in riskier ways. However, research has shown that those who receive overdose training through harm reduction programs actually reported less drug use and less syringe sharing, while also preventing opiate overdose deaths.

Naloxone is a medication that will temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Any opioid user or family and friends of someone who is at risk of an opioid overdose are also able to get access to these kits. These include adults over 65 who are on opioids, illicit drug users and people on opioids for chronic pain. A joint report from the Canadian Institute for Health Information and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse claims seniors accounted for almost one in four of all Canadian hospitalizations for opioid poisoning over the past eight years. Seniors are at risk due to being on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses. Illicit drug users are also at risk of unknowingly using laced opioid products when using other street drugs, especially with the alarming number of emerging street opioids that are highly potent. Tolerance can develop following the treatment of chronic pain. With repeated administration, the dose that was previously controlling the pain no longer works as well. Increasing the dose or taking opioids more frequently than prescribed to chase after the previous pain control level can markedly increase the risk of overdose.

The infographic highlights the basics of what to do in an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone. Each injectable naloxone kit includes two ampoules of naloxone, two safety-engineered syringes with needles, two devices for opening ampoules safely, and a pair of non-latex gloves. They are available at no charge and no prescription is required. All you need is your health card. If you want more information on naloxone or want to obtain a free naloxone kit, stop by your local pharmacy to speak to your pharmacist.