Pathways Addictions Resource Centre added a tool to their arsenal last week when they were approved as a Take Home Naloxone Training and Distribution Centre.
Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids (e.g. heroin, methadone, fentanyl, morphine), and administering it quickly can mean the difference between life and death.
The province developed the Take Home Naloxone program to save lives during the ongoing fentanyl overdose crisis. The kits and training are now available, at no cost, for people who use opioids and people who are likely to witness and respond to an overdose.
Daryl Meyers, agency director at Pathways, says the overdose problem isn’t going away. There were 922 overdose deaths in the province last year,compared to 510 in 2015. An additional 116 people died in January.
“If there has been a big bust of fentanyl, then we will see a drop off until the drugs get back into circulation. Then we will see an increase of overdoses,” said Meyers. “But it is definitely not slowing down.”
A justice in B.C.’s top court is calling for stronger sentences for those who sell fentanyl. In a ruling posted online Friday, the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal to increase the six-month sentence of a man who was caught with drugs, including 2.6 grams of the deadly opioid.
The effort was denied, since fentanyl-related deaths were not as prevalent at the time of the offence. But the three justices agreed the court should identify a higher sentencing range because of the current “public health crisis associated with illicitfentanyl consumption.”
Justice Mary Newbury, who dissented in the judgement, called for a sentence of 18 to 36 months or possibly higher. The current sentencing range for first-time offenders is six to 12 months – the same as heroin.
Meyers said it is not just people using street drugs that are at risk. People taking opioids for chronic pain, especially older adults, should have a Naloxone kit handy.
Prescription users might take to much, she said, either trying to relieve pain, or in the case of older users, simply forget they already took their dose.
“Even though they are not using street drugs, they are still at risk of an overdose,” said Meyers.
Being an approved distribution centre has another benefit, as it starts a conversation.
“As part of the harm reduction model, any connection you can make with somebody is a positive step towards forming a relationship with them,” said Meyers. “If there is an opportunity they may want to make a change, a relationship has been established and it is easier for them to come in and talk about it.”
Training is also available to business and organizations who want to be prepared if an overdose was to happen onsite. For training and a Naloxone kit, contact Pathways at 250-492-0400.