A drug that can actually reverse an opioid overdose is on its way to Kitimat.
Opioids, such as morphine, methadone, heroin, OxyContin or fentanyl can cause a user to go into cardiac or respiratory arrest — an overdose — and the drug, naloxone, can stop it.
Naloxone is the antagonist to opioids. Take home naloxone kits have been available in some areas of the province, including Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, since 2012.
This month, Northern Health approved Kitimat to be a registered naloxone site.
“It actually saves people’s lives,” said Davey MacLennan, the co-chair for the harm reduction committee at Kitimat Community Services.
MacLennan is one of the three people qualified, as well as two nurses at the hospital, to educate residents on naloxone.
“It doesn’t mean that we’re going to see more people using higher amounts because they have this drug with them. People using opioids don’t want the high to be reversed because it’s actually quite a violent quick reversal that lasts long enough for emergency services to get there.”
Naloxone is injected and lowers the effect of an opioid drug for 15 minutes and wears off in 30 minutes.
The drug works by binding to the same site in the brain where the opioids bind and then it pushes the opioids out.
MacLennan said they ordered the naloxone supplies last week and once they arrive doctors will be able to prescribe naloxone kits to people who do require to have the kit on hand.
Last year, there were 465 illicit drug overdose deaths reported in the province, which was a 27 per cent increase from 2014. Many of those deaths were from opioids.
On Thursday, the Health Minister Terry Lake Health Minister Terry Lake said there were 56 overdose cases reported in April, and the province has seen an average of 60 a month since January.
Half of those cases are related to fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid increasingly showing up in street drugs.
“People don’t know they’re taking it, and it’s 100 times more powerful than other opioids,” Lake said.
“They think they’re taking oxycontin or something like that, and it’s fentanyl, and there are tragic consequences.”
Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall sent out B.C.’s first-ever public health emergency order last week to emergency wards and first responders.
Real-time reports will allow public warnings and deployment of naloxone kits, an antidote for opioid overdoses.