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Group Calls for Better Access to Life-Saving Overdose Drug

In light of recent fentanyl overdoses in the province, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) has released an opioid overdose strategy.

The BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership, which is chaired by the BCCDC, says more steps need to be taken to address the issue of opioid deaths. In 2015, there were 465 apparent illicit drug overdoses, an increase of 27 per cent from 2014. The majority of these overdose deaths were due to opioids like heroin, morphine, oxycodone, and fentanyl that may have been used in combination with other drugs or alcohol.

According to the report, illicit drug overdoses have increased in the province by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2015. A key recommendation contained in the proposed provincial response strategy is to increase access to naloxone. Naloxone is an antidote to an overdose from opioids. It is a safe medication that quickly reverses the effects of opioids on the body by restoring breathing within 2-5 minutes.

<who> Photo Credit: File Photo/ ALERT Handout

“The DOAP committee has identified the need for accessible naloxone in the community setting,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction epidemiologist at BCCDC. “This, along with the other recommendations, will be integral in reducing the harms from an opioid overdose and preventing overdose deaths.”

The strategy contains other recommendations for actions that various municipal, provincial and national agencies can take to expand education and prevention efforts in order to address BC’s overdose crisis.

The recommendations include:

  • Changes in policy to make naloxone a non-prescription medication, which can increase access for the public, family and friends of people at risk of an overdose and non-medical staff in community settings.
  • Changes in practice to increase access to naloxone can mean expanded availability in places like community health centres, acute care settings and other facilities where overdoses can occur.
  • Improved overdose prevention education and training to increase awareness, recognition and response strategies.
  • Increasing physician awareness of best practices for opioid prescribing and encouraging physicians to review patients’ medical and medication histories before prescribing opioids for pain management.
  • Enhanced surveillance and data sharing to improve public health and safety planning to reduce harms.

The full list of recommendations is available here.

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