Pubdate: Thu, 21 Dec 2017
Source: Province, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Randy Shore
Page: 3


Overdose Crisis: Thousands more kits to be distributed this year through 

Nearly 7,000 life-saving naloxone kits have been used by harm
reduction staff in B.C. so far this year and thousands more kits will
be distributed by pharmacies to battle the effects of a contaminated
drug supply.

"That means you can get a kit at no charge if you use opioids or you
are likely to witness an overdose," said Mental Health and Addictions
Minister Judy Darcy. "Already, 1,900 kits have been distributed to
over 200 pharmacies around the province."

Naloxone will be available on request starting this month from
pharmacies across B.C., including in London Drugs and Save-On-Foods
stores. Instructions are available at .

Identifying information about the person receiving the kit will not be

In 2013, the first full year of the take-home naloxone program, 632
kits were distributed and of those 36 were used to reverse an
overdose, said Jane Buxton, harm reduction lead for the B.C. Centre
for Disease Control.

"Today, those numbers are dramatically higher," she said. "In 2017
alone, the harm reduction program at the BCCDC distributed 30,000 kits
and nearly 7,000 kits have been reported as being used this year alone
to reverse an overdose."

Despite those efforts, more than 1,200 people have died of drug
overdose in B.C. so far this year and 999 of those showed evidence of
fentanyl contamination, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid many times stronger than heroin.
Carfentanil - roughly 5,000 times more powerful than heroin - has been
implicated in 48 deaths.

"The most heartbreaking thing about all of this is that each of these
deaths could have been prevented," said Darcy.

The provincial government will spend $2 million a year in each of the
next three years to increase access to naloxone as part of a
$322-million investment to address the overdose crisis and encourage
addicts to enter recovery programs.

Naloxone quickly reverses potentially deadly respiratory depression
caused by an overdose of opioids, such as heroin, fentanyl and
morphine. Take-home naloxone kits are available from 830 locations,
including harm reduction sites, emergency rooms and health units.

Hundreds of people are dying because drugs often contain contaminated
substances that can be fatal, said Mike, a former addict and now an
advocate for life-saving access to naloxone.

"The more naloxone we get into people's hands, the more lives we are
going to be able to save," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I have
lost many friends as well, but I have also saved a few because I carry
my naloxone kit on me at all times."

Mike recalled a day when two girls came to find him and his kit in an
emergency, but he was too late to save the person who was dying of an

"He didn't get enough oxygen and it was more than 20 minutes," he
recalled. "We tried our best, but if someone else had (a kit) this
person would still be here today."

Meanwhile, Dr. Mark Tyndall is organizing a $1-million pilot program
that would supply pharmaceutical hydromorphone pills to 200 opioid
addicts in an effort to stop them from buying contaminated street drugs.

Rather than taking every dose under supervision, he hopes eventually
to allow users to take the morphine derivative home with them,
dramatically reducing the cost of treatment.

The cost of drugs could be as little as $700 a year per user, a small
fraction of the cost of supervised injection drug therapy, said the
executive medical director of the BCCDC.

Tyndall has advocated expanding the distribution of hydromorphone "on
a larger scale," including the use of vending machines for opioids.

"We are exploring different methods and one of the more extreme models
would be anonymous vending machines. But we are exploring many models
that would allow people access to a safer supply of drugs, including
supportive housing and supervised injection sites," he said.

To address the "toxic drug market" authorities need to give people
access to clean drugs, he said. "We are exploring many different ways
that could happen."
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