Thunder Bay

Naloxone use on the rise in Thunder Bay, health unit says

Naloxone use is on the rise in Thunder Bay, with the medication being administered by paramedics and bystanders more often, the city's health unit said.
More than 2,000 free naloxone kits were handed out in Thunder Bay in 2018. (Christine Rankin)

Naloxone use is on the rise in Thunder Bay, with the medication being administered by paramedics and bystanders more often, the city's health unit said.

Diana Gowanlock, manager of the Thunder Bay District Health Unit's infectious disease, harm reduction, and street nursing programs, said the health unit tracks the number of times naloxone — a medication used to stop the effects of opioid overdoses — is administered by paramedics, as well as by bystanders.

Health unit statistics show paramedics administered naloxone 26 times in 2017, 90 times in 2018, and 64 between January and August of 2019.

Meanwhile, health unit statistics show bystanders administered naloxone 12 times in 2017, 114 times in 2018, and 107 times between January and August 2019.

However, Gowanlock said the bystander numbers may not capture the entire picture.

"We do get anecdotal reports of them being used," she said. "We do ask people that if they do use them, that they report back to us and let us know that."

"But often, people don't."

Gowanlock said the health unit is also seeing a continued increase in the number of people carrying naloxone kits in the city.

The kits are available for free at the health unit, and community pharmacies.

Gowanlock said about 550 were handed out in 2017, and just over 2,000 in 2018.

"From the numbers for 2019, I'd say we're likely close to doubling [the 2018] total by the end of this year," she said. "I think a lot of it has to do with increased awareness."

"A lot of other agencies are partnering with us and making sure that they have naloxone kits on-hand," Gowanlock said. "There's definitely more awareness in the media, more education."