Pubdate: Mon, 05 Mar 2018
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2018 The London Free Press
Author: Hank Daniszewski
Page: A1


Two people using fentanyl at London's temporary overdose prevention
site on the weekend were resuscitated by a nurse after they overdosed,
Middlesex-London's medical officer of health says.

"These people were inexperienced, and fentanyl is a drug where it's
easy to miscalculate how much you are taking. If this had happened in
a back alley or stairwell somewhere, it could have easily resulted in
death," Dr. Chris Mackie said Sunday.

The drug users were resuscitated Saturday using oxygen, he

Staff did not use naloxone - a medication that reverses the effects of
opioids - because the overdose was not severe, and they acted quickly,
Mackie said.

The overdoses were the first at the temporary overdose prevention site
since it opened three weeks ago at 186 King St.

Mackie reported the milestone for the site - the first in the province
- - in a tweet Saturday.

The facility opened Feb. 12 at 186 King St., where the Regional HIV/
AIDS Connection operates a clean needle exchange program.

Health officials argued a supervised drug consumption facility was
needed in London to prevent users from dying after using fentanyl and
other opioids and to steer them to resources to beat their addictions.

A highly addictive opioid, fentanyl is 100 times more powerful than
morphine and is sometimes mixed with other drugs - so people using
cocaine and heroin may not know they're also ingesting a drug that
could be lethal, police say.

In mid-January, London police warned that three people died of
suspected drug overdoses and two other drug users were taken to
hospital within 48 hours.

Mackie said the temporary overdose prevention site that has had more
than 300 visits since it opened is working the way it was intended.
The site not only saves life, but also connects people with the
services they need to get their lives back on track, Mackie said.

"We are dealing with people who have led traumatic lives and are often
mistreated by the system. Building relationships that can lead to
recovery starts with the respect they're given as a human being."

Staff monitor drug users but have to be careful not to be too
intrusive, Mackie said. "The nurse . . . doesn't want to be in their
face so they are scared off and go back to using in an alley."

Users also are finding peer support at the site, Mackie said. One male
user was talked out of using injection drugs by a woman, he said. "He
ended up swallowing the drugs instead, which is much safer. She may
have prevented him from ever starting injecting drugs."

The temporary OD-prevention site has provincial approval to operate
for at least six months and an exemption from Canada's criminal drug
laws. It offers a safe place to take drugs under medical supervision,
with clean equipment, naloxone and oxygen nearby, if needed.

Intended as a stop-gap until a permanent site is determined, the
temporary site has become busier since it opened, going from four drug
users a day to as many as 44.

The $130,000 of provincial funding used to set up the facility was
money well spent, Mackie said.

That the facility had more than 300 visits before an overdose is
surprising, Mackie said. Reports from similar facilities typically
report several overdose incidents for every 100 clients, he said.

"The fact that we saw 300 before the first overdose was pretty good."
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