Nfld. & Labrador

Naloxone kits launched to prevent 'significant problem' of opioid overdoses

Some 1,200 kits containing naloxone - an antidote that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose - are being distributed across the province.

Take-home naloxone kits will be distributed at 52 sites across the province

Naloxone kits like this one are intended to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)


Opioid overdoses have emerged as such a pressing health concern that the province has teamed with community groups to distribute 1,200 naloxone kits in 52 locations across the province.

Naloxone is an injectable antidote that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and can save a person's life.

We have a significant problem in this province with opioid use.- John Haggie, Minister of Health

The Minister of Health and Community Services, the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) launched the initiative Wednesday at The Tommy Sexton Centre in St. John's.

Health Minister John Haggie said the naloxone take-home kits are a cost-effective way of dealing with a "public health emergency." (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"We have a significant problem in this province with opioid use," said Haggie. 

"Our current problem is prescription opioids," he said. "Fentanyl is the thin edge of the wedge and there are other ones ... designer opioids that are extremely dangerous."

The antidote kit contains a set of instructions, alcohol wipes, a pair of gloves, a breathing apparatus, two vials of naloxone and two syringes that are similar to an EpiPen.

"They will buy you time to get 911," said Haggie. 

Tree Walsh, of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), said the "vanishing point" needle tip disappears when it is injected, eliminating the chance of an accidental prick. 

Tree Walsh, of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP) demonstrates how to use naloxone by injecting it into an orange, as Gerard Yetman of the AIDS Committee looks on. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

The naloxone kits will be distributed, free of charge, at 52 sites across the province where staff will also provide training for users. Kits are available to anyone who may need them, or to family members and caretakers of people believed to be at risk. 

Seniors may need kits too

"We will be directing people who request a kit to their respective health authority," said Gerard Yetman, executive director of the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The risk of an opioid overdose also extends to seniors, said Walsh. "Seniors may be prescribed opioids and forget and take a second round, so it's really important for caregivers of those individuals to be aware and to have one on hand just in case."

Usually in about three to five minutes the person will start to wake up.- Tree Walsh, SWAP

"Usually in about three to five minutes the person will start to wake up," said Walsh, who used an orange to demonstrate how to correctly administer the naloxone injection.

"If they don't, our kits have a second vial of naloxone ... If it were fentanyl, for example, you probably would need the second one."

Increase in overdose deaths a concern

Twenty people died from drug overdoses in Newfoundland and Labrador last year, according to statistics obtained from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

Haggie pegged the proportion of those who have had fentanyl exposure at about 25 per cent.

The 1,200 kits cost the province $14 each. Haggie said such kits are commercially available but are much more expensive. He called the kits "a cost efficient way of dealing with a public health emergency." 

With files from Ariana Kelland and Adam Walsh

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