Concerned about the number of people overdosing on fentanyl, Alberta is expanding access to the antidote, naloxone.
Alberta Health Services is distributing 4,000 take-home naloxone kits and providing training in their use. The kits will be available at walk-in clinics and at eight harm reduction sites in the province.
Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of a fentanyl overdose, allowing time to get medical treatment.
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Dr. Nicholas Etches is Medical Officer of Health for the Calgary zone.
"Fentanyl is one of the more toxic street drugs that we've seen in a long time and the burden of opioid overdose is staggering. It's absolutely a public health crisis," he said.
There were 272 overdose deaths in Alberta last year, up from 120 in 2014.
"We're really excited to be able to announce the 29 walk-in clinics where Albertans can access overdose prevention training as well as naloxone kits," said Dr. Etches.
"If we can get naloxone into the hands of more Albertans, we can reduce the number of fentanyl-related deaths," he said.
A complete list of dispensing sites is available at www.drugsfool.ca
Vanisha Breault welcomes the expansion of the naloxone program. She says an EMS responder saved her daughter's life by administering naloxone, after an overdose of fentanyl
However, she says the province needs to attack the problem of addiction at its roots.
"The kits are great, but it's almost like dealing with addiction at arm's length," she said.
Breault says there is an urgent need to provide more treatment options for addicts.