Pubdate: Fri, 04 Sep 2015
Source: Victoria News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Black Press
Author: Pamela Roth


Health Workers Want Opioid Antidote Available Without Prescription

The distribution of nearly 200 Naloxone kits in Victoria by AIDS 
Vancouver Island (AVI) during the past two years has prevented 
numerous drug-related deaths.

But those who distribute the kits to opioid users would like to see 
them become available without a prescription in order to save more lives.

According to Heather Hobbs, harm reduction services coordinator with 
AVI, the opioid antidote given to someone having a drug overdose on 
heroin, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl, has been used at AVI at 
least 15 times in the past year.

During the last two years, the agency has also trained close to 500 
people on how to use Naloxone kits, and has received seven to eight 
reports of someone's life being saved because of them. Hobbs, 
however, suspects the numbers are much higher.

The kits are mainly distributed to drug users who are at risk of 
overdosing and those who spend time with them, such as friends and 
family, since a drug user can't administer Naloxone themselves. The 
medication quickly reverses the effects of opioids on the body by 
restoring breathing within two to five minutes. The effects last for 
at least 30 minutes, giving time for emergency responders to arrive.

The problem, said Hobbs, is that a prescription is needed to access 
the kit, creating a regulatory hurdle for some agencies such as 
police. Paramedics have been using the kits for years, but Hobbs 
would like to see more first responders and community agencies be 
able to get on board.

"The purpose of this provincial project is to make it more readily 
available to people in the community other than first responders. The 
reason why this is such a good idea is that Naloxone is incredibly 
safe. It's really similar to an EpiPen. You're not going to hurt 
somebody and I've seen it work," said Hobbs, adding she hasn't done 
any training with Victoria police officers.

"Ultimately it should not be regulated by a prescription. I think as 
many people as possible should carry it. It should be part of a 
standard first aid response."

So far this year, there have been 26 overdose deaths from illicit 
substances on Vancouver Island - 12 of those are related to fentanyl. 
In Victoria, at least two people have died from fentanyl - a potent 
synthetic opioid analgesic that can appear in the form of pills or 
powder. The drug is often sold as OxyContin to unsuspecting users or 
mixed into other street drugs, but it's about 100 times more potent 
than morphine and 20 times more potent than OxyContin.

Hobbs said drug overdoses in Victoria are an ongoing problem, and the 
introduction of fentanyl into the drug supply has only exasperated the matter.

In the past year, Hobbs estimates AVI has interacted with more than 
2,000 people who've accessed the harm reduction program, which 
includes distribution of safe drug supplies and recovery of used ones.
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