February 10, 2016 3:56 am
Updated: February 10, 2016 3:59 pm

First responders to use naloxone to reduce drug deaths

WATCH: As Metro Vancouver struggles with an alarming number of deaths by overdose, first responders are about to start arming themselves with a new tool that could save lives. It's called Naloxone and it can reverse the effects of an overdose. But as Jill Bennett reports, there's another option being used in the U.S. that could be even easier.


According to police numbers, about two or three people die every week in Vancouver due to drug overdoses.

The drug naloxone could reduce those numbers. The drug reverses opioid overdoses, such as those caused by fentanyl.

Last month, Health Minister Terry Lake said certain specially licensed firefighters will be allowed to administer naloxone, an inexpensive drug that’s injected in a large muscle, such as a thigh, and its effects last from about 30 to 60 minutes. Patients would be transferred to a hospital for further treatment.

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With a recent spike in overdose deaths from drugs, there is a push for more first responders to carry and use the drug.

“We had staff trained as soon as the announcement came out and they’re currently in the process of training staff at the four fire halls that will be the pilot project fire halls with anticipation of the project being rolled out by February 16th,” Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services public information officer Jonathan Gormick said.

READ MORE: Opioid overdose antidote may be available prescription-free by spring

Officers in the Boston area have been carrying naloxone since 2010. In 2013, the department reported a a 95 per cent success rate in bringing people back after they overdosed.

But the U.S. officers are using a nasal spray to administer the drug rather than an injection. Vancouver’s police chief has been quoted as saying he won’t allow his officers to inject the drug. The problem is the spray form isn’t yet approved for use in Canada.

“We have to be realistic here. The spray version of naloxone could be years away,” said Douglas King of the Pivot Legal Society. “We still get reports off and on about members of the Vancouver Police Department being a bit of an obstruction to the drug being administered.

“That’s our primary concern right now, that officers are educated enough to know that first and foremost they need to not stand in the way of the drug being administered to somebody. Ultimately, down the line we’d love to see them in a position to administer it themselves.”

“The more naloxone is out in the community, the more lives will be saved and that’s the absolute bottom line,” Gormick said. “It’s up to the police to decide what form is appropriate for their officers to use and we just hope that the inter-nasal spray can get approval in Canada sooner rather than later.”

– With files from The Canadian Press

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