By Scott Strasser, February 5 2016 —
A drug used to counteract fentanyl overdoses will soon be available at the University of Calgary’s SU Wellness Centre. The drug is called naloxone and can temporarily reverse a fentanyl overdose.
Alberta Health Services is distributing 4,000 take-home naloxone kits to 29 walk-in clinics across Alberta. AHS medical officer of health Nick Etches said the move is in response to the rapid rise of fentanyl overdoses in the province.
“Fentanyl remains a public health crisis, so it’s important that we continue to expand our response,” Etches said. “One pill can be enough to kill someone and we’ve definitely seen that.”
Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate roughly 100 times stronger than morphine. Deaths from fentanyl are a growing problem in Alberta. In 2015, there were 272 deaths linked to the drug, up from 120 in 2014 and 60 in 2013.
The kits will include instructions on how to administer the drug, two vials of naloxone, syringes, alcohol swabs, latex gloves and a one-way breathing mask.
AHS will also provide short training sessions for Wellness Centre staff on how to properly administer naloxone.
Naloxone also counteracts drugs similar to fentanyl like heroin. It works by binding with the same receptors targeted by the drugs, limiting their effects.
The U of C won’t be the only campus in Calgary to distribute the naloxone kits — SAIT’s health services clinic will also receive them.
“[Students] are a particularly important population for us to reach,” Etches said. “Many students may be using opioids on a recreational basis and may not be aware of the significant risks with respect to overdoses.”