Canada urged to expand use of Naloxone to counter opiate overdoses
Published Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:07PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 18, 2014 10:27PM EDT
Several Canadian cities are looking to expand the use of a medication that has been shown to save lives by countering the effects of a life-threatening prescription drug overdose.
Naloxone, an opiate antidote which is injected into the arm, essentially reverses the potentially fatal effect of an opiate overdose in minutes.
Some U.S. states are equipping their emergency workers and police officers with the medication.
The call for expanded use of Naloxone comes following a new report that shows deaths from prescription opiates such as oxycodone and morphine are growing in Canada.
According to the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition report, the use of prescription pain-killers is the cause of half of all drug overdose deaths in the country – more than heroin and cocaine combined.
The report’s author, Donald MacPherson, says Naxolone programs should be quickly expanded across Canada.
“We have to respond and save lives today while we question why people are using these opioids, why is opiod use up,” MacPherson said.
Some Canadian health agencies are already jumping on board, with positive results.
Toronto Public Health has handed 1,100 Naloxone kits to current and past drug users and their families. The kits have been used to prevent 150 overdoses in the last two-and-a-half years.
“It puts a life-saving medication into the hands of the people who need it, when they need it, and they have been responding really well,” said Shaun Hopkins, a manager at Toronto Public Health.
But Amy Graves, president of the grassroots organization Get Prescription Drugs Off The Street, says Naloxone programs are just a first step.
“I do think more emphasis needs to be put on why do we have increased rates of opioid dependency, addiction and death,” said Graves, who lost her brother to an accidental drug overdose.
Long-term solutions include preventing addictions in the first place, better treatment and tighter control on these powerful drugs.
With a report from Medical Specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip