In recent years, Alberta has seen a rapid increase in the number of fentanyl-related deaths, and on Friday, Alberta became the second province in Canada to offer Naloxone kits, free of charge and without a prescription at pharmacies.
The opioid inhibitor Naloxone takes minutes from the time of injection to temporarily reverse the fatal effects of a fentanyl overdose.
While the Naloxone kit is seen by many as a step in the right direction, it is causing hesitation among some first responders.
“I think there are some concerns with it for sure,” Lethbridge Police Association President Jay McMillan said.
“I think the harm reduction strategy is great but I don’t think we fully understand what the long-term ramifications are going to be.”
McMillan has seen his fair share of fentanyl abuse in his 16 years as a police officer, and is worried the kits may be seen as a “temporary fix” for opioid users.
“Our concern is that the message may be interpreted by users as: this is now a safe way to use fentanyl,” McMillan said.
“That is not at all the case. There isn’t a safe way to use fentanyl.”
McMillan says the kits are giving some drug users a false sense of security, with some not even seeking further medical attention for an overdose.
“They’ll get an injection, they’ll start to feel the effects of it and they’ll leave medical care and they’ll wander off,” McMillan said. “Now they’re on their own, wandering the streets in a drug-induced state with no back up, no safety net.”
Still, when used correctly as a life-saving measure, the Naloxone kits are a step in the right direction. Easier access has made it possible for parents and family members of known drug users to acquire kits.
“We do see a lot of family, friends, and loved ones who are concerned about someone and would like to have a kit for their loved one who is using,” Registered Nurse Lindsay Stella said.
“This really opens the avenues that people can access these kits without a prescription in a preventative way for loved ones.”
While the kits can – and have – saved lives, questions remain surrounding distribution, ensuring that the proper people are able to access the kits and are educated on how to administer the antidote.