Pubdate: Thu, 17 Dec 2015
Source: Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Copyright: 2015, BC Newspaper Group
Author: Tamara Cunningham


Nanaimo's hospital is the first on the Island to offer a take-home
antidote for fentanyl.

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital's emergency department began handing
out two-syringe Naloxone kits last week to offer people a take-home
antidote for opioid overdoses like fentanyl and heroin.

AIDS Vancouver Island in Nanaimo also offers the kit and Harris House
plans to begin dispensing it in January, seeing it as a life-saving
tool akin to EpiPen. The kits are paid for through the B.C. Centre for
Disease Control and in part, a response to an increasing use of
fentanyl in illicit drugs.

While no current statistics are available, a preliminary report from
the B.C. Coroners Service shows fentanyl was detected in 91 of 257
illicit drug deaths in B.C. between January and Aug. 31, 2015,
compared to 13 in 272 deaths in 2012.

More than half of the deaths where fentanyl was detected this year
were in Nanaimo.

Fentanyl is getting mixed into every drug out there, including
marijuana, said Dr. Trapper Edison, manager of the NRGH emergency
department, who said before rolling out the program the department was
testing people's urine for fentanyl and found it could be present
unbeknownst to patients.

The take-home kits, available to those seen at NRGH for opioid-related
medical emergencies or those at-risk for an overdose, are meant to
increase access, and put antidotes and community resource information
into the hands of drug users.

It's harmless medication, says Rebecca McGregor, registered nurse and
program trainer at NRGH, but in the case of an overdose it "fully
saves lives" and within moments.

An overdose depresses the respiratory centre of the brain and ceases
circulation. Narcan binds to opiate receptors and allows people to
breath again, she said, although McGregor still encourages people to
call 911.

Since 2012, about 5,000 people have been trained across B.C. to use
the kit and more than 325 overdoses have been reversed because of
Narcan, according to Jane Buxton, head of harm reduction for the B.C.
Centre for Disease Control, who says that number alone makes it clear
the kit is needed.

To date, there are 115 locations across B.C. where people can access a
kit. St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver, Royal Inland Hospital in
Kamloops, and Nanaimo are the only emergency departments offering
Naloxone kits.

Edison said in practical terms, the kits can save money. To admit an
overdosing patient into the hospital costs approximately $18,000 a
day. A person who had Narcan and then went to the hospital wouldn't
need to be admitted. But mostly it's about the people and the needs of
all walks of life, he said.

McGregor adds that this is a small community and that 60 per cent of
overdose deaths are happening here is huge.

"These are people we see regularly," she said. "If we can take
advantage of a program and try to lessen that, why wouldn't we?"

Medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback said it was a logical
extension to provide antidote training to those affected. If it works
well, he expects it to spread to other emergency departments.
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