Nfld. & Labrador·Video

Naloxone opioid overdose antidote kits coming soon to N.L.

The province is providing funding for a naloxone program, to help fight opioid overdoses in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Province will fund 1,200 naloxone kits, to be distributed in the fall

Protesters celebrate introduction of naloxone kits

6 years ago
Duration 1:28
Those calling on drugs to counter overdoses, including the mother of a man who overdosed on fentanyl, held a rally on Wednesday.

A province-wide initiative to increase access to an opioid overdose antidote is in the works, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced Wednesday morning.

The 1,200 take-home kits, available free of charge, contain naloxone — a drug that reverses overdose effects — along with the needed items to administer it: latex gloves, single-use syringes, alcohol swabs and more.

"It's very rapid ... it really is an amazing drug in opioid overdose," said Health Minister John Haggie, who is also a surgeon who has administered naloxone before.

Naloxone was only deregulated by Health Canada in March, allowing individual provinces to decide whether to make it available to the public without a prescription.

Haggie said the delay in creating the take-home kits for Newfoundland and Labrador stemmed from manufacturer problems that have now been resolved, and the kits will be distributed in the early fall through the four provincial health authorities and the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), which is operated by the AIDS Committee of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Health Canada deregulated naloxone in March, allowing provinces to make it available without a prescription. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

'We can save their lives'

The announcement was felt deeply by one woman, taking part in a small noon-hour protest Wednesday to demand better drug addiction policy and create awareness, who knows firsthand the toll addiction can take.

Dawn Smallwood lost her son Nathan Smallwood, 23, last year from a fentanyl overdose, a potent synthetic opioid.

"It took one of my favourite people from me," she told CBC News.

"If he had to have known about this drug [naloxone], he probably still would've been alive today, and been with me today."

This naloxone kit, from B.C., contains all the necessary items in order to administer naloxon after an overdose. (Towardstheheart.ca)

Smallwood welcomed Wednesday's announcement, which coincided with International Overdose Awareness Day.

"I'm very happy because the drug addicts today, no matter if we tell them not to do drugs, I think they're still going to do drugs — they have an addiction," she said.

"But with this drug at least we can save their lives."

A co-organizer of the protest said she was "guardedly optimistic" about the naloxone kits, but hopes for more.

"Now is not a time for us to rest on our laurels, now is the time for us to keep pushing for more progressive drug policy" said Laura Moores, the co-chair of the MUN chapter for Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy, adding she'd like to see an expanding needle exchange program and changes to some pieces of legislation.

Opioid overdoses on the rise

Minister Haggie said so far in 2016, there have been five fatal overdoses linked to opioids, with no data available on how many overdoses have occurred where the user did not pass away.

But he warned with the rise of synthetic opioids such as fentanyl across Canada, it's necessary to take some proactive precautions to try and avoid the crisis taking place in provinces like B.C.

"They've tripled their overdose deaths this year, compared to last year, and it's only August. That is being replicated in Alberta, and of course this province has close links with Alberta," Haggie told reporters.

Newfoundland to provide naloxone kits to counter opioid overdoses.

6 years ago
Duration 1:14
N.L. Health Minister John Haggie speaks to reporters about why the kits were not provided sooner.

"I think rather than wait to actually have a number that I don't want to see, the idea was to try and bring this out."

Haggie said where the kits will be made available is still being worked out. 

"They're probably going to be put in areas where people might drop in who would be at risk," he said, adding the health authorities and SWAP would be advising the province on the most accessible places for the kits.

"You really only have a very limited window of time to administer naloxone in these situations, and even putting it in first responders' vehicles is probably too long a delay, particularly in rural areas."

The province is spending $180,000 on the naloxone program, as part of a larger "opioid action plan," with further announcements in the works. Haggie said some of those initiatives include better detox treatments for minors and looking at other drugs to supplement or replace methadone treatments.

With files from Mark Quinn

now