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Nova Scotia pharmacies to begin offering free naloxone kits to counter opioid overdoses

Nova Scotia pharmacies will be offering free naloxone kits for opioid overdoses.
Nova Scotia pharmacies will be offering free naloxone kits for opioid overdoses. Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Free naloxone kits are being made available at Nova Scotia pharmacies for people at risk, or those who know someone at risk, of an opioid overdose.

So far, 240 of the province’s pharmacies have signed on with the Take Home Naloxone Program, which begins this week.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia prepares to battle rising threat of fentanyl

The kits, which reverse the effects of opioids, will be offered anonymously and free of charge.

Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of healthsays the program will save lives.

“The potential  is out there for an increase in overdoses in Nova Scotia,” he said.

“Naloxone does save lives. We’ve already saved lives in the last year in our existing efforts in naloxone distribution where we’ve worked with community-based harm reduction organizations.”

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Strang says Nova Scotians who use prescription opioids or street drugs that are in a powder or pill form are encouraged to pick up a kit. As well, anyone who is in close contact with people who fall under those categories should consider having a kit handy.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia RCMP given Naloxone kits amid spreading fentanyl crisis

“There’s no need for a prescription,” Strang said.

“So if any Nova Scotian thinks they are at risk, they can walk into a pharmacy, ask for a naloxone kit and they will have about a 10-minute session and walk out with a naloxone kit.”

The program is part of the province’s Opioid Use and Misuse Framework, and was initially set to launch on Sept. 1.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Randy Delorey said preparations took longer than expected, but that he hopes those who need the kits will now be aware of its availability.

“We do have a map available for people to see exactly where the nearest pharmacy carrying this product is available,” Delorey said.

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Strang says more than 500 kits have been distributed to pharmacies across the province and more will be made available depending on demand.

He admits the province is potentially at risk of a greater problem with opioid addiction and overdoses.

A graph shows the number of overdose deaths in Nova Scotia from 2011 to 2016
A graph shows the number of overdose deaths in Nova Scotia from 2011 to 2016. Global News

“We already have on average in the last number of years, 60 Nova Scotians dying every year from acute opioid overdose, and we are starting to see increasing amounts of illicit fentanyl and other types of drugs in the street drug scene,” he said.

WATCH: Saint John police look to protect themselves from fentanyl exposure

Click to play video 'Saint John police look to protect themselves from fentanyl exposure' Saint John police look to protect themselves from fentanyl exposure
Saint John police look to protect themselves from fentanyl exposure – May 31, 2017

The province stresses anyone who suspects an overdose should call 911, so that first responders can walk them through administering naloxone before paramedics arrive.

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Government officials are reminding Nova Scotians that the Good Samaritan Act protects Canadians who call 911 in an overdose emergency from simple possession charges.