Drug users warned of dangers after spike in opioid-related EMS calls in Edmonton
Alberta Health Services urges 'extreme caution' in buying, using illegal drugs
Alberta Health Services has issued a warning to drug users after a significant increase in opioid-related EMS calls, particularly in Edmonton.
Users should "exercise extreme caution if purchasing and using illegal drugs," AHS said in a news release Friday.
Emergency Medical Services responded to 246 opioid-related emergencies in Edmonton in May, compared to 108 in May of 2019.
On May 29 alone, EMS responded to 16 opioid-related emergencies in Edmonton, up from an average of about nine a day, AHS said.
In April, there were 676 reported overdose reversals through the community-based naloxone program, the highest monthly number in more than a year.
AHS said that in an emergency, call 911 or go directly to the nearest emergency department. People can also call the addiction helpline at 1-866-332-2322 or the mental health helpline at 1-877-2642.
Those experiencing an overdose may show symptoms such as breathing slowly or not at all, blue nails and/or lips, choking or throwing up, making gurgling sounds and cold, clammy skin.
Naloxone kits are available at pharmacies, community clinics and emergency departments. A full list of locations, and advice on spotting an overdose is available at www.drugsafe.ca.
AHS offered these reminders:
- Avoid using while alone.
- Ask someone to check on you or use while on the phone with a trusted person able to call for assistance in the event of an overdose.
- Use supervised consumption services if possible.
- Do a test dose first, start low and go slow — always do a test dose to check the potency or strength of the drug.
- Know the signs and symptoms of poisoning/overdose and call 911 always for direction and support.
- Carry a naloxone kit and know to use it to respond to a suspected opioid poisoning.
- Connect with your local harm reduction, health and social services agencies (e.g., income support, housing).
- Reach out to available substance use treatment, recovery-oriented supports (e.g., opioid agonist therapy, specialty addiction recovery programs), and mental health services.