Saskatoon·Updated

Saskatoon to pilot take-home antidote kit for fentanyl overdoses

Saskatoon will begin a new pilot project that would put antidote kits for opioid overdoses in the hands of those who need them.

Kits will come with the drug naloxone which can restore breathing when an opioid overdose occurs

Fentanyl pills are shown in a handout photo. (The Canadian Press/HO/Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams )

Saskatoon has been selected for a new pilot project that would put antidote kits for opioid overdoses in the hands of those who need them.

The kits will contain naloxone which, according to the province, can restore breathing to those experiencing an overdose from drugs such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone or oxycodone. Naloxone is already used in emergency rooms and by paramedics. 

According to the Office of the Chief Coroner, 25 people have died of fentanyl overdoses in Saskatchewan between Jan. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2015. Of those deaths 12 happened in Saskatoon and five happened in Regina.

These numbers do not include the six people who had overdoses related to fake OxyContin.

"We want people to be aware of the health risk posed by drugs like fentanyl that are mixed and sold illegally, and ensure that resources are in place to potentially save lives," Health Minister Dustin Duncan said in a news release Wednesday morning. 

Fentanyl is a doctor prescribed painkiller and considered to be 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, oxycodone or morphine. It is often added to illegal drugs without people knowing.

While these take-home kits have the potential to save lives, Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab said it does not replace calling 911.

He said in the event of an opioid overdose, using the kit may buy time before first responders can reach the patient.

"Even people who think they know how to handle drugs can get a fatal overdose because the way these drugs are produced into pills they may be sold as something else or be more than a 100 times more the dose a person might expect," Shahab said.
Naloxone kit contains two vials, syringes, gloves, alcohol swabs and instructions. (CBC)

The kits contain two vials of naloxone, two syringes, gloves and an alcohol swab with instructions. He said more and more EMS and ER staff are seeing people who have overdosed on opioids.

Drug users and those who may witness an overdose will get training on how to use the kits.

"It's really important for all of us to talk to each other talk to our children about the harms of drug use, especially recreational drug use,"  Shahab said. 

"Just that one pill can result in a fatal overdose."

According to the government, Saskatoon was selected because of the number of opioid abusers. Several people have died from fentanyl overdoses in the city this year. It is also a growing problem across the country. 

​Saskatchewan is actually lagging behind Alberta and British Columbia when it comes to distributing the take-home naloxone kits. B.C.'s take-home naloxone program was introduced in August 2012.

There have been 145 deaths related to fentanyl use across Alberta in the first six months of this year alone.

Clarifications

  • A previous version of this story said that both naloxone and Narcan were included in the antidote kits. Narcan is, in fact, the trade name for naloxone.
    Nov 04, 2015 8:45 PM CT

with files from Canadian Press

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