Nova Scotia

'This training will save a life': Advocates hold overdose prevention workshop

More than a dozen people attended a public workshop on Saturday to learn how to use fentanyl test strips and administer naloxone.

'This needs to be addressed, this needs to be talked about,' says organizer

Matthew Bonn says the first step to prevent overdoses is education. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

Matthew Bonn has been saved by naloxone, and he's used it to save others.

Now, he's working to help other Nova Scotians learn how to do the same.

"I don't have to think that long ago to when I was being reversed by naloxone because of an overdose, so this is my passion," he said.

Naloxone is a fast-acting drug that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

Bonn, 29, is a former intravenous drug user and the president of the HaliFIX Overdose Prevention Society, an advocacy group pushing to open Atlantic Canada's first overdose prevention site.

On Saturday, HaliFIX partnered with another group called frndzone to host a public workshop on how to use fentanyl test strips and naloxone to prevent overdoses.

Reducing stigma

The first step to preventing overdoses is education, said Bonn.

"This training will save a life," he said. "We're trying to reduce stigma so we can reduce a lot of the barriers that people who use substances face on a daily basis."

He said people who struggle with addiction are extremely vulnerable, and normalizing the conversation and reducing stigma around drug use can help them learn to make healthy decisions on their own.

This is the second time HaliFIX and frndzone have held this kind of workshop, and Bonn said they plan to hold more in the future.

Direction 180's Megan Horochuk and Peter Brown told the group about how to safely use naloxone. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

Staff with Direction 180, a local methadone clinic, were at the workshop to walk people through what they should do if they see someone overdosing.

During her presentation, Megan Horochuk, the clinic's lead naloxone trainer, said anyone who finds a person who may be overdosing should call 911 first.

She said once naloxone is given to someone, it usually takes about one to five minutes to kick in, and it lasts for about 30 to 90 minutes.

Horochuk added that naloxone is safe to use, so it should be administered any time there is a suspected overdose.

Safety at festivals

The workshop was held in the midst of festival and concert season — a time when people might be engaging in risky behaviour, according to Danielle LeBlanc.

Matthew Bonn, Andrew Hatfield, Mark Harmsworth and Danielle LeBlanc helped put the workshop together. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

"There's a big idea that everybody's using drugs (at festivals,)" said LeBlanc, a registered nurse who gave a presentation about safe sex and drug use at the workshop. 

"But even if people are there, and they're not using drugs or they're not doing risky activities, it's important that we all know how to identify whether or not someone is OK."

She said it's important to keep an eye out for people who look like they might be overdosing, dehydrated or exhausted.

Mark Harmsworth works with frndzone, the parent company for the annual Rock the Dock music festival in Yarmouth, N.S.

He said people shouldn't be afraid to talk about sex and drug use, especially in the context of music festivals.

"It's a taboo subject that shouldn't be," said Harmsworth.

"I mean, people are going to have sex. People are going to do drugs. They should be doing it the safest possible way."

The group had a number of resources available for people with questions about harm reduction when it comes to drug use and sex. (Alex Cooke/CBC)

More than a dozen people showed up to Saturday's event, which suggested to Harmsworth that people are beginning to think a little differently about reducing harm.

"I've monitored other harm reduction events, and they've been slowly getting bigger and bigger," he said. 

"It's just showing that this needs to be addressed, this needs to be talked about, and people want to hear about it."


About the Author

Alex Cooke


Alex is a reporter living in Halifax. Send her story ideas at

With files from Stéphanie Blanchet