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Fentanyl and its antidote naloxone changing the job for Saskatoon first responders

Deadly drugs changing the way Saskatoon Fire Department paramedics do their job
WATCH ABOVE: Naloxone is helping Saskatoon Fire Department paramedics save someone’s life in the event of a drug overdose. Meaghan Craig reports.

Deadly drugs like fentanyl continue to be an epidemic across the country.

While things may not seem as bad in Saskatoon as they were two years ago, the streets are still plagued with the problem. Fortunately, there are more people than ever to help save someone in the event of an overdose.

“From our paramedics’ perspective, we are seeing more overdose calls … we’re seeing a trend and it’s trending up. What worries us is the potency of the drugs that are being used,” MD Ambulance spokesperson Troy Davies said.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan man facing charge for importing fentanyl derivatives

Fentanyl is so strong that a dose the size of a snowflake can be fatal. There were 36 fentanyl-related deaths in Saskatchewan between 2014 and 2016.

The crisis prompted jurisdictions to allow for the use of naloxone, commonly known as Narcan, to bring drug users back from the brink of death.

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In 2015, take-home naloxone kits were introduced in Saskatchewan. Eight health regions currently provide the life-saving kits free of charge.

“You give it, you’re going to see an immediate effect if it’s a true narcotic overdose and it’s something we’re using more and more every day,” Davies said.

Illicit drugs have even changed the way Saskatoon Fire Department paramedics do their jobs.

“Prior to December of last year, our paramedics were not administering IV drugs or drugs of those types,” assistant fire chief Anthony Tataryn said.

READ MORE: Quebec pharmacists to carry fentanyl antidote naloxone

Before, the administration of the antidote was only permitted by specially-trained paramedics and staff in emergency departments. But now, all 150 paramedics with the department are licensed and ready.

“Our paramedics can deliver naloxone in three different methods — they can deliver intravenously, intramuscular or nasal,” Tataryn said.

Naloxone kits distributed by the province can only be administered intravenously. It works the quickest and is the least expensive.

For Saskatoon Fire Department paramedics, how the antidote is delivered depends on the patient.

“An individual who’s outside, who’s veins are retracted — it’s really hard to establish that IV but you can always find a muscle to give that intramuscular injection,” paramedic Nate Husulak said.

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In 11 months, fire crews have used the drug five times, potentially saving those people from a fatal overdose.