Pubdate: Fri, 15 Mar 2013
Source: Kenora Daily Miner And News (CN ON)
Copyright: 2013 Kenora Daily Miner and News
Author: Alan S. Hale


Handling Out Kits to Save Opiate Users From Dying of an Overdose

Overdosing is one of the many dangers people addicted to hard drugs 
have to face every time they have to feed their habit. Almost every 
abuser of opiate-based drugs overdoses at some point, sometimes with 
fatal consequences; 300 to 400 people die every year in Ontario of a 
drug overdoes. To help prevent more deaths, Kenora's needle exchange 
programs will be giving out new take-home kits that will allow people 
to save the life of their overdosing friend or family member.

"Our harm reduction program, which we've had for awhile, looks at 
addressing and reducing drug-related harms," said Gillian Lunny, the 
Sexual Health and Harm Reduction Programs manager for the 
Northwestern Health Unit, which runs the needle exchanges. "And one 
of the ways we've been doing that for over ten years is to reduce the 
spread of blood-born infections through the sharing of needles and 
other drug preparation equipment. Another drug-related harm that's 
becoming more and more highlighted in our province is overdose. 
That's the harm we are focusing on with this new program."

The kits contain two clean needles, some disinfective wipes and two 
doses of a drug called Naloxone. If injected quickly enough, the drug 
can actually reverse the effects of an overdose on opium-derived 
drugs such as heroine, morphine, oxycodone or fentanyl. It does this 
by blocking the opiods in the drugs from receptors in the brain, and 
so ending the high.

"Naloxone has been around for years. I used to work in a hospital and 
it is administered regularly when people come in who have overdosed. 
Distributing the drug to people who use opiates isn't a new idea 
either. That's been happening in countries in Europe and in various 
states in the U.S. since the 1990s. But it is a new program for us," 
said Lunny.

Lunny said over the past few years, opiates are becoming more common 
among the drug-using population in Northwestern Ontario, and as a 
result overdoses have also been on the rise.

Knowing how many addicts live in Kenora or the region is difficult to 
know with any certainty, but the health unit does keep track of the 
number of encounters they have with users: in 2012, there were 6,000 
encounters with male users and 5,000 with female users region-wide.

The needle exchange programs in Kenora and across Northwestern 
Ontario have become well-used by the regions intravenous drug users; 
giving out over 200,000 clean needles just in 2012. The exchanges 
also have nurses who are trained on the use of Naloxone who can teach 
users before giving them the kits to take home.

"For people who are using opiods and overdose, Naloxone is a very 
simple, easy, life-saving measure that can be put into place to save 
people's lives."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom