Pubdate: Mon, 11 Sep 2017
Source: McGill Daily, The (CN QU Edu)
Copyright: 2017 The McGill Daily
Page: 3


Content Warning: drug use and overdose

Last week, public health officials in Montreal warned of an imminent
fentanyl crisis that poses a serious risk to the city's drug users.
Fentanyl is an opioid prescribed to relieve chronic pain, but its
intensity is 40 times that of heroin, and its toxicity 100 times that
of morphine. Fentanyl can be found in opiates, as well as party drugs
such as cocaine, PCP, and MDMA. Because it's often present without the
consumer's knowledge, it can easily cause a fatal overdose. In British
Columbia, 706 overdose deaths from January to July 2017 involved
fentanyl. In Montreal, there have been 24 confirmed drug overdose
cases since the beginning of August 2017. Faced with this growing
public health crisis, the McGill community must waste no time in
supplying the tools and information necessary to keep students safe.

A key step in this direction would be for the University to provide
access to naloxone, a chemical compound that stabilizes someone
experiencing an overdose for 30-90 minutes until further medical
attention is available. Naloxone can be administered by anyone who has
received a requisite training, which Montreal Public Health recommends
for the general public. Indeed, while city officials work on an action
plan to tackle the fentanyl crisis, community organisations like Meta
d' me have been training people to administer naloxone safely.
Meanwhile, some local events and venues have begun keeping a naloxone-
trained person on site to maximize safe( r) partying. These
initiatives are rooted in a philosophy of harm reduction that ensures
the rights of drug users to health and safety, and it is vital for
Mcgill to embrace this same mindset.

Many students use party drugs, meaning the fentanyl crisis necessarily
affects the McGill community-yet there seems to be little preparation
happening on campus. The McGill Student Emergency Response Team
(MSERT), who already receive limited information on responding to drug
overdoses, has neither been provided with naloxone nor taught to
administer it. Floor fellows who are aware of the crisis have
communicated the dangers to their students, but they too have no
access to naloxone. Mcgill Health Services, meanwhile, haven't
communicated with the student population about the fentanyl crisis at
all. This lack of information and training around fentanyl is deeply
irresponsible. Given the extent to which McGill fosters party culture,
the administration must take responsibility for keeping students
informed of that culture's inherent risks.

Individual students, however, should not wait for institutional
support before taking action. No matter the setting, from campus
parties to one's own living room, it's essential that bystanders be
equipped to prevent a fatality. At the very least, they must be
trained to spot the signs of a fentanyl overdose in time to call for
help. These signs include: severe sleepiness, shallow breathing, lips
and nails turning blue, unresponsiveness, gurgling sounds or snoring,
cold or clammy skin, and abnormally small pupils. In order to address
the fentanyl crisis, Canada passed a law in May 2017 that promises
immunity from drug possession charges for anyone calling 911 to report
an overdose; while this represents important progress, it should be
noted that racialized and non-status students will likely still face
harassment from law enforcement. In addition to learning the signs and
seeking naloxone training, students must demand that McGill take
concrete and immediate action to fight! the fentanyl crisis.
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