Majority don't call 911 after saving someone from fentanyl overdose, says study

Results from a survey conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse revealed 65 per cent of respondents said they did not call 9-1-1 when they used the opioid antidote.

People surveyed say they worry police will get involved and arrest the person who has just overdosed

A syringe and small bottle of naloxone are two items found in a naloxone kit. (Montry Kruger/CBC)

Many people who have saved someone's life by administering naloxone during an overdose admit they did not call for help afterward, according to a new study.

Results from a survey conducted by the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse revealed as many as 65 per cent of respondents did not call 9-1-1 when they used the opioid antidote.

People surveyed said they worried police would get involved and arrest them for being associated with the person who has just overdosed.

Michael Parkinson, community engagement officer with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, talked to several dozen respondents from the area. More than half said they did not call for help.

"The high toxicity of fentanyl means that an overdose can return even after naloxone administration," he said. "Hospital care is absolutely recommended."

Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen. (The Canadian Press)

The findings, collected in surveys conducted with hundreds of intravenous drug users, come as Ontario grapples with an opioid crisis that is killing hundreds every year.

Middlesex-London EMS education superintendent Jay Loosley said overdose calls have not gone up in the region, despite the city handing out the second highest number of needles per capita in Canada.

"We have been responding to fentanyl overdoses for awhile now and we definitely get 9-1-1 calls where we arrive on scene to a victim but no bystandard," he said.

Loosely agrees the person who made the call is worried about getting in trouble with the law.

New law needed

Parkinson and others are lobbying the government to introduce a "Good Samaritan" law to give immunity to people who call 9-1-1 for an overdose.

"We're recommending the establishment of a national law that would provide limited immunity at overdose emergencies in an effort to boost 9-1-1 call rates," Parkinson said.

A senate committee recently reviewed a proposed law and while it still needs to be approved by the senate as a whole, the committee is encouraging a favourable vote.