Pubdate: Sat, 02 Sep 2017
Source: Beacon Herald, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Osprey Media Group Inc.
Author: Galen Simmons
Page: A3


Perth District Health Unit highlights harm reduction for drug users

Nearly a year after the Perth District Health Unit (PDHU) began
offering free Naloxone kits to residents in Stratford and across Perth
County, the harm reduction benefits for opioid users are quite clear.

Naloxone, more commonly referred to by its brand name Narcan, can be
administered as a nasal spray and is used to stop overdoses. At the
PDHU's Festival Square office at 10 Downie St. in Stratford, staff
have been giving away kits containing two doses of Narcan each to
opioid users, their friends, relatives or caregivers who feel they or
their loved ones are at risk of overdosing.

Opiods are medications that relieve pain and, when abused, can have
tragic consequences. The prescription drug fentanyl, for example, is
100 times more toxic than morphine.

"People who live in that drug-using community or their friends and
family live in a lot of fear that somebody close to them or themselves
may overdose," said Jane DeBlock, a nurse with the PDHU's sexual
health and harm reduction program. "So having this, which is an
immediate help, makes people feel more secure. It makes them less
anxious and less fearful that they're going to lose someone they love."

When someone comes into the PDHU office looking for a Narcan kit, a
nurse like DeBlock will sit down with the person to get a better idea
as to why they feel they need it. Through a series of quick,
non-invasive and non-judgmental questions, the nurse determines
whether that person uses opioids recreationally, considers themselves
an addict, and whether they would like help with that addiction.

For those who want help managing their addiction, DeBlock said she and
her staff can take them upstairs to Choices for Change on the third
floor of Festival Square, where they can get the help and counselling
they need.

But not all opioid users consider themselves addicts, and not all drug
users are interested in getting clean.

"We will always try to do what we feel like they're asking for,"
DeBlock said. "It's not like we wouldn't try to assess to find out if
maybe that is what they're asking for. There are very few people that
enjoy feeling addicted to something. They don't feel like they have
control. It's not a nice feeling for anybody, no matter what (the
addictive substance) is. So we try to get deeper and find that out if
we can, but we're also happy to just meet people where they are and
give them the kit and let them go on their way if that's what they

"They're not going to want to come in if we try to force them to give
up drugs, and it's most important that we get these kits out there."

Before handing someone a kit, DeBlock will give an opioid user, their
friend or family member a crash course in how to administer the Narcan
nasal spray.

"When we started doing this we had injectable Narcan, and that's what
I think people think of is the injectable. Now we're using a nasal
spray. What people found was the injectable was a little bit tricky to
giveĀ… it's tough to do for somebody who's not used to handling a
needle. The nasal spray is much easier to administer and it works a
little quicker too."

Administered like any other inhalable nasal spray, each Narcan kit
contains two doses. Depending on the amount of opioids someone has in
their system, DeBlock said a second dose of Narcan may need to be
administered should that person begin to lose consciousness again a
few minutes after inhaling the first dose.

"When someone's taking an opioid into their body, it sits on these
opioid receptor cells in the brain. Narcan, when it's given, it
actually knocks the opioid off the receptor cells and replaces it,
which brings a person back from the overdose. Over time though,
depending on the amount of opioids in their system, they'll come back,
they'll want to connect again to the receptors, so sometimes you'll
want to give a second dose before an emergency response can get there."

Regardless of whether or not Narcan is administered to someone
experiencing an overdose, that person needs to be taken to a hospital
by paramedics. Narcan is only used to keep someone alive long enough
for paramedics to arrive. Luckily, DeBlock says Narcan has no negative
health effects on the human body, regardless of the number of doses

Free Narcan kits are only one of the many harm reduction services
offered by the PDHU. These include access to clean needles and
tourniquets, safe inhalation supplies, and distilled water, which can
be mixed with a drug to create a cleaner injectable solution. The PDHU
has also installed two Community Sharps Disposal Kiosks in Stratford -
one in the Erie Street parking lot behind the Festival Square building
and one at the back of the lower parking lot at the PDHU's main office
(653 West Gore St.) - for 24/7 safe disposal of used needles.

For more information on the PDHU's free Narcan kits or its harm
reduction program, call 519-2717600 ext. 267, or toll-free at
1-877271-7348 ext. 267.
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