Twenty-nine walk-in clinics across Alberta can now prescribe and supply naloxone, a drug that can temporarily reverse a fentanyl overdose, buying a user time to seek potentially life-saving medical treatment.
Alberta Health Services (AHS), with funding from Alberta Health, is distributing 4,000 take-home naloxone kits and providing training as part of its response to the rapid rise in fentanyl-related deaths in the province.
The kits are going to the walk-in clinics (see backgrounder for locations) and eight existing harm reduction sites, making it easier for Albertans at risk of fentanyl overdose to increase their chances of survival in life-or-death situations.
“We are continually looking at ways to reduce the devastating impact this lethal drug is having in our province. Improving access to these naloxone kits is one element in our government’s overall strategy in working with our partners to address the harmful impact of fentanyl,” says Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Sarah Hoffman.
Last year in Alberta, there were 272 overdose deaths involving fentanyl, up from 120 in 2014.
Illicit fentanyl is highly toxic and a small amount can be deadly.
The naloxone kits contain instructions on how and when to administer the drug, two vials of naloxone, syringes, alcohol swab, latex gloves and a one-way rescue breathing mask. The training provides instruction on mouth-to-mouth breathing and how to administer naloxone.
Naloxone, in combination with mouth-to-mouth breathing, is safe and effective in temporarily reversing the effects of a fentanyl overdose, providing it is administered immediately. Users then need to call 911 for further medical treatment.
Albertans, at risk of opioid overdose, can get a kit at any take-home naloxone kit dispensing site, where they can also obtain the required prescription and take a mandatory 10-15 minute training session.
A full list of dispensing sites is available online at www.drugsfool.ca.
“Unfortunately, a majority of deaths resulting in overdose are from illicit sources, people really don’t know what they are getting,” says Dr. Nicholas Etches, Medical Officer of Health in AHS Calgary Zone.
“If we can get naloxone into the hands of more Albertans, we can reduce the number of fentanyl-related deaths. It is very important people protect themselves and get naloxone. Even if you think you know what you are taking, you are still at risk.”
Call Health Link at 811 for more information on fentanyl or naloxone.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.
A listing for all the clinics where naloxone kits are available, including for the North Zone, can be found at www.drugsfools.ca and will be updated weekly.