P.E.I. police use naloxone twice in past 5 months
Summerside police only force to administer the opioid overdose antidote
Police forces on P.E.I. have had to administer life-saving naloxone spray only twice since receiving it last year and both times were in Summerside.
Naloxone, given as a nasal spray, temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose and can save lives.
"It's not surprising — there is, unfortunately, a drug issue here as there are in most communities across the country," said Summerside police Cpl. Jason Blacquiere.
"The fact that we've used it and no one else has is a bit surprising, but hopefully that's not a trend that continues," he said.
Police forces in Charlottetown and Kensington, and the RCMP who police the rest of P.E.I., told CBC they have not yet used naloxone.
Officers carry 2 doses
The first time Summerside officers administered naloxone, under the brand name Narcan, was December 2017 on an 18-year-old Summerside-area man found on Granville Street "acting erratically" and foaming at the mouth. He fell unconscious but came to after police used the nasal spray.
The second time police used Narcan was April 8, on an unconscious woman whom witnesses said had ingested a large amount of opioids. She remained unconscious after the dose, so when paramedics arrived they administered a second dose of naloxone.
"Depending on how much of a drug the patient has taken, and how far along into the overdose they are, sometimes a second dose is required," said Blacquiere, noting that naloxone is harmless if given to someone who is not overdosing.
Summerside police officers started carrying naloxone about a year ago, after receiving training on the drug and how to recognize a drug overdose. It was originally issued so officers could protect themselves, Blacquiere said, since just coming in contact with the powerful opioid fentanyl can cause an accidental overdose.
It's not unusual for police to be the first to arrive to an emergency call that becomes a medical issue, Blacquiere said — Summerside officers carry two doses at all times.
No need for public to carry antidote
Blacquiere does not believe Summerside has a bigger problem with drug abuse than other jurisdictions — he hopes this is "an aberration."
"I don't think it's any worse here than anywhere else in the province," he said.
Some provinces are offering naloxone kits for free to the public to use if they encounter someone overdosing.
Blacquiere said he doesn't think Islanders need to carry naloxone.
We don't see the number of overdoses here on the East Coast or specifically P.E.I. that say, people in Vancouver see on a day-to-day basis.— Jason Blacquiere
"Hopefully we're not going to get to the point where members of the public, there's an actual need for us to be carrying it," he said. "We don't see the number of overdoses here on the East Coast or specifically P.E.I. that say, people in Vancouver see on a day-to-day basis."
At the same time, he notes opioids are "in high demand at the street level here in P.E.I."
P.E.I. police have not laid any charges related to trafficking in fentanyl, he said, although there have been seizures of the drug.
CBC has requested information on naloxone use and overdoses from Health PEI several times since October, but none have been forthcoming.
Naloxone kits are available to the public without a prescription in Prince Edward Island.