Pubdate: Mon, 23 Oct 2017
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network
Author: Bill Kaufmann
Page: 6


Alberta health officials are handing out between 2,000 and 3,000
naloxone kits a month to combat a lethal fentanyl epidemic.

In two years of providing at least 30,972 of the free kits that
include the anti-narcotic formula, Naloxone has reversed a reported
2,330 overdoses in the province, said Dr. Nick Etches, medical officer
of health for the Calgary region.

"Certainly, there have been more reversals than reported, the majority
of times people are not telling us," he said, also noting those
numbers are as of Sept. 30, and don't include naloxone interventions
delivered by medical professionals.

He said the public uptake of the kits has been gratifying and have
more than met expectations, but added more still needs to be done.

"We need to continue to get the message out that still not everybody
in Alberta who needs to have these kits has them," said Etches.

The kits have reached at least 1,326 registered sites, including
pharmacies, public facilities and social agencies.

A pharmacist at Lukes Drug Mart, at 112 4th Street N.E., said they've
handed out many of the kits in a variety of circumstances.

"We've handed out a lot more than I would like," said the pharmacist,
who wouldn't give her name.

"Typically, the people who come to get them vary - users and then
friends of people who are going to concerts come and get them."

She said the store has two of the kits available at any given time and
are quickly replaced as needed.

The Calgary Drop-In Centre, Canada's largest homeless shelter, has
used the kits extensively, said spokeswoman Debbie Newman.

"In the last six months we've had 50 overdoses in our building, though
not all are related to fentanyl, and we've used naloxone in a good
third of those cases," said Newman.

"Without naloxone, we'd see the mortality rate go up."

She said overdose episodes handled by centre staff are traumatic

And she wonders how effective a supervised safe-consumption site
planned for the Sheldon Chumir Centre in the city's Beltline area will

"You need to be able to know where people are going to be overdosing,
but at least it's a start at looking at the issue," Newman said.

Fentanyl overdoses are spread out across the city, noted Newman, a
scourge that knows no income boundaries.

Etches said the effectiveness of the kits can be limited by the nature
of the use of fentanyl and other dangerous drugs.

"A lot of the drug use happens behind closed doors, in isolated
sites," he said.

Whether it's supervised consumption sites or access to naloxone, "none
of these are going to provide a solution," added Etches.

Fentanyl's toll has continued to increase in Alberta, with 315 deaths
in Alberta up to August this year, compared with 117 in all of 2014.

Calgary has been the hardest hit centre in the province.

Some addictions specialists say the availability of the drug, how it's
often cut into other substances and its potency means that the death
rate will likely continue to climb for some time.

Etches said the urgency of the crisis continues to motivate those
battling it.

"We're going at this hammer and tongs and will continue to … we're
giving out as many kits as people need," he said.
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