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Dispensing Health: Dealing with the overdose problem

Did you know? Overdose due to medications is a leading cause of death worldwide. Thunder Bay and surrounding area has the highest overdose rate in Ontario, with 13.9 deaths per 100,000 people.
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Did you know?

Overdose due to medications is a leading cause of death worldwide. Thunder Bay and surrounding area has the highest overdose rate in Ontario, with 13.9 deaths per 100,000 people.

What can we do decrease this?

Today we will discuss the use of naloxone as a harm reduction method. Naloxone is a safe, highly effective rescue medication for opioid overdose. Which can be lifesaving until emergency services can arrive.

Where can you get Naloxone from?

In March of this year Health Canada approved the change of status of Naloxone to no longer needing a prescription from your doctor. Then on June 24, 2016 the scheduling was finalized and Naloxone was listed as a schedule 2 drug. This means that pharmacies in Ontario can carry naloxone and keep it behind the counter.

How much does it cost?

Naloxone is also available free to Ontarians as a kit with other supplies needed in an overdose situation when you qualify under certain eligibility criteria which include:

  • A person who is either currently using opioids
  • A person who is a past opioid user who is at risk of returning to opioid use
  • A person who is a family member, friend, or other person in a position to assist a person at risk of overdose from opioids

When a person receives a naloxone kit from pharmacies they will also receive professional training from the pharmacist to ensure they can administer naloxone correctly and safely.

Will Naloxone work for all types of overdoses?

Naloxone will only work for overdoses caused by opioids. Opioids are substances that bind to opioid receptors in the brain and cause morphine life effects. Opioids include the following:

  • Codeine
  • Demerol
  • Hydromorphone
  • Heroin
  • Oxycodone
  • Dilaudid
  • Morphine
  • Buprenorphine
  • Fentanyl
  • Methadone

Therefore, naloxone will not counter the effects of other types of drugs such as benzodiazepines, alcohol, sedatives such as phenobarbital, or stimulants such as cocaine, crystal meth or ecstasy. However, since many overdoses today happen due to mixing of opioids with other drugs, if an overdose occurs it is recommended to still give naloxone as in the worst case scenario it will do nothing and in the best case it will save a life.

What are the side effects of Naloxone?

Serious side effects of naloxone are very rare and the potential complications of overdose are more alarming than the side effects. For instance if a person is not using any opioids the injection of naloxone will feel the same as an injection of water, therefore has no potential for abuse or dependency.

 

What are some other initiatives for harm reduction?

Elevate NWO is a leading source in Northwestern Ontario for harm reduction information, services and resources. They dispense naloxone kits as well as HIV/HCV testing, safe injection kits, safe inhalation kits, safer sex kits, safe disposal of injection/inhalation equipment, education on using safely and links to community supports. I urge you to check them out @elevatenwo.org

Oak is partnering with Elevate NWO for distribution of naloxone kits in our community. We have challenged ourselves with an organizational goal of dispensing 5000 kits in 3 years.

 



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