Concerned family and friends of opioid drugs users, like fentanyl, now have a new tool in the fight against drug overdose deaths in Saskatoon.
Fifty Naloxone kits are now available through the Mayfair Clinic as part of a provincial Ministry of Health pilot program, the Saskatoon Health Region announced Friday. The drug temporarily reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone and oxycodone.
“This is an evidence-based, World Health Organization endorsed approach to preventing opioid overdose deaths,” addictions specialist Dr. Peter Butt said, adding the program has been used in B.C. and Alberta.
Users can apply to receive a kit, but because those experiencing an overdose can’t inject themselves, the program is also aimed at friends, family and community-based organizations, Butt said. Close friends and family of users and organization employees may also qualify for the kits and will receive training on how to recognize an overdose and administer the Naloxone.
Naloxone won’t hurt someone if it is administered when a person did not take opioids or took another drug.
The synthetic drug blocks opioid receptors in the brain, temporarily reversing the effects of an overdose. However, because it only lasts for a brief period of time, anyone who administers the drug should then immediately call 911, Butt said.
“Sometimes opioids last longer than the reversing agent and people can do back into an overdosed state,” he said.
How to get a kit
Residents can request kits by contacting the Mayfair Clinic and booking an appointment with an addictions counselor at 306-655-4007. Those who qualify for kits will receive half an hour of training before a nurse practitioner writes a prescription for the kit. Prescriptions can be filled at Mayfair Drugs on 33rd Street West.
The $30 cost of the kit plus dispensing fee are covered by tax dollars.
Butt said the program was spurred on because of the high number of overdose deaths this year. There have been 56 unintentional opioid overdoses in Saskatchewan this year. Ten were caused by the strong painkiller fentanyl.
“The fentanyl overdoses are some that have been profiled fairly high in the media but there are others every year that occur from IV drug use that don’t get the same sort of media attention,” Butt said.
It’s unclear how long the pilot will last. Butt said they started with 50 kits, and if demand is high, they will work to speed up delivery of more. He also hopes to introduce the program province-wide.