Manitoba paramedics 1st in Canada to offer new medication for meth users

The provincial government will permit paramedics to administer olanzapine to agitated people who have used methamphetamine, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced on Monday.

Antipsychotic purported to reduce agitation, risk of addicts harming themselves or others

Manitoba's paramedics will be the first in the country allowed to administer olanzapine to agitated people who have used methamphetamine and are at risk of suffering psychosis. (Bert Savard/Radio-Canada)

Paramedics in Manitoba will become the first in Canada to give meth users olanzapine to reduce the risk of psychosis. 

The provincial government will permit paramedics to administer the drug to agitated people who have used methamphetamine, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced on Monday.

The atypical antipsychotic medication will help lessen or prevent the severity of the symptoms meth users face, such as agitation, the province said in a news release.

The drug, which is already used in some clinical settings, can be deployed by Manitoba's paramedics beginning in December.

"With rising concern around methamphetamine use and its associated psychosis and aggression, we are facing a time where critical action is required," Dr. Ginette Poulin, medical director of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, said in a statement.

"This enhanced protocol will be an important contribution to responding to the devastating effects of methamphetamine use and empower first responders safely support patients in distress."

The oral disintegrating tablets are currently given to patients in Australia, the province said.

Response to violent behaviour

The Paramedic Association of Manitoba commended the province for adding another medication to the arsenal of their front-line staff.

"These patients can quickly develop paranoia and exhibit violent behaviour even while being assessed, so additional treatment options are needed," said chair Brent Bekiaris.

The provincial government has faced dogged criticism from opposition parties for not doing enough to help meth addicts in what's been described as a crisis.

The Progressive Conservatives say they've acted appropriately to deal with the growing problem.

They've introduced five walk-in clinics for people struggling with addictions and more mental health beds and women's treatment beds in Winnipeg.

The government recently issued a request for proposals from residential treatment centres to treat people with mental health and addictions struggles who would otherwise be sent out of province.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.