In 2015, an estimated 2000 Canadians died from opioid overdoses. More are expected in 2016. It’s undeniable that Canada is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis.
It’s National Addictions Awareness Week in Canada and the Dr. Kelly Grindrod at the School of Pharmacy is spreading the word about the opioid addiction and the role pharmacists can play in helping to save lives.
“In an unprecedented move the Canadian government made naloxone, a temporary antidote to opioid overdoses, available at pharmacies across Canada,” Grindrod explained at the School’s Opioid Crisis Public Lecture last week.
Naloxone is available as a Schedule II drug, meaning it is accessible from behind the counter without a prescription. You have to talk to a pharmacist to get it. Ontario in particular has gone one step further, not only making naloxone available at pharmacies but also making it free.
“The drug is freely available to anyone who is currently using opioids, a past opioid user, or a family member, friend or other person in a position to assist a person at risk of overdose from opioids,” says Grindrod. “Anyone can request a naloxone kit.”
To educate healthcare providers and the public about how to use naloxone kits, Dr. Grindrod and her team created this video in partnership with the Canadian Pharmacists Association:
While a health card is required to get a kit from a pharmacy, they are also available to those without health cards through the Region of Waterloo Public Health.
Naloxone, once a drug that was primarily used in the Intensive Care Unit of hospitals, temporarily prevents an overdose from occurring, buying people enough time to call an ambulance to take the overdosed person to hospital.
For more on naloxone, see this video developed by Dr. Grindrod and her team:
Despite naloxone’s availability, less than ten pharmacies in Waterloo Region advertise that they are stocked with naloxone. Grindrod advised people to ask their pharmacists about getting a kit.
“The best thing you can do is go into your pharmacy and ask for it,” she says. “If they don’t have it, tell them you’ll be back in a week.” That time will allow pharmacies to acquire the medication and learn how to counsel patients about it.
Grindrod and her team have also generated this downloadable infographic to help remember when and how to use naloxone: Naloxone Infographic (PDF)