EDMONTON- In an effort to stem the widening public health concern over fentanyl overdoses, Alberta has authorized more health professionals to administer a potentially livesaving antidote.
On Friday, Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced she has issued ministerial orders aimed at easing the distribution of the naloxone.
In a release, Hoffman said,””Too many Albertans’ lives have been cut short by fentanyl, and too many Alberta families have experienced the devastating loss of a loved one due to an accidental overdose. Naloxone is proven to reduce overdose deaths and save lives. That’s why we’re taking action to expand access to it across the province.”
The orders now provide emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with the legal authority to administer and distribute the antidote while paramedics, who were already allowed to administer the drug, are also able to distribute the drug.
The registrar of the Alberta College of Paramedics praised the move in a release.
“Paramedics, EMTs and EMRs are often the first on scene to treat those who have overdosed on fentanyl or other drugs. The Alberta College of Paramedics is pleased that the Alberta government has authorized our highly skilled emergency responders to use naloxone as a tool to respond more effectively when a patient has overdosed,” said Tim Essington.
The scope of practices has also been expanded for nurses who already administer and distribute naloxone; they are now also tasked with prescribing the drug.
“CARNA supports the Alberta government’s actions to expand access to naloxone, and we’re pleased that registered nurses are being enabled to use their education and skills to prescribe naloxone to people who need it,” said Shannon Spenceley in a media release. Spenceley is the president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.
The government said the ministerial orders will be in place until July 1, 2016, but could be renewed.
Alberta has seen a sharp rise in the number of deadly fentanyl overdoses.
In all of 2014, there were 120 fentanyl-related overdose deaths in the province. From just Jan. 1 to Sept. 30, 2015, there have already been 213 overdose deaths involving the drug.
Alberta Health Services says fentanyl’s potency makes it an especially dangerous opiate. It is about 100 times more toxic than morphine, heroin, or oxycodone.
Fentanyl is a synthetic painkiller normally administered to treat pain in cancer patients but has become an increasingly popular street drug in Alberta.
On the street, the drug is also known as green beans, beans, green apples, apples, shady eighties, eighties, greenies or fake oxy.
For more on the province’s response to what some are calling a public health medical crisis, you can visit the Alberta Health website.
Graphic by Tonia Huynh.
© 2015 Shaw Media