The Ontario government is making the anti-opioid drug Naloxone available over-the-counter in pharmacies to help cut down on the number of overdoses across the province.
The Ministry of Health made the announcement Wednesday in a news release, saying it made the move after the National Association of Pharmacy Regulatory Authorities (NAPRA) reclassified Naloxone last Friday, so it can now be used in emergency overdose situations outside hospitals.
"The province recognizes that opioid addiction and overdose is a serious public health concern. An overdose of opioid drugs — such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone or oxycodone — can cause a person's breathing to slow or stop," the news release said.
"Naloxone is an injectable medication that can reverse this effect so the person can breathe more normally and potentially regain consciousness. This provides precious time to seek emergency medical attention to treat the overdose."
The province's pharmacists can now provide training on how to safely administer the drug and Naloxone will be provided free of charge to "people at risk of an overdose," the release said.
The provincial government is making the move partly to battle an epidemic of overdoses involving the opioid Fentanyl, a potent drug that doctors prescribe for chronic pain.
Between 2005-09, 210 people in Ontario died at least in part as a result of fentanyl overdoses, according to an annual report from the office of Ontario's chief coroner.
Many recreational drug users take it unknowingly, because it gets mixed with street drugs or gets sold as fake OxyContin pills, putting those users at high risk of an overdose. It's estimated to be 80 times as powerful as morphine and hundreds of times more powerful than heroin, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.