Fewer Winnipeggers are being treated for fentanyl overdoses compared to 2017

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Winnipeg paramedics are responding to fewer fentanyl overdoses this year compared to 2017. But as Global's Nikki Jhutti explains the concern over the dangerous drug is far from over.

According to Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, fewer people are being treated for fentanyl overdoses this year compared to 2017.

So far in 2018, 224 people have been treated with naloxone, compared to 371 patients during the same period last year.

Naloxone is a synthetic drug which acts as an antidote for opioid overdoses.

READ MORE: New app teaches proper use of Naloxone

“[Naloxone] basically kicks that opioid off that receptor site in your brain.  It allows that receptor site to start functioning again. In theory, the patient should start breathing.”

“It’s very important that the community knows Naloxone is a great drug, but it’s not a wonder drug. It does not work for everybody,” Corey Guest, Paramedic Public Education Coordinator, explained.

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Guest said there could be a few reasons why the numbers appear to be trending down in 2018, including the availability of fentanyl on the streets. He said the street drug scene can be very cyclical, which means the drugs people are chasing may not be available.

READ MORE: Police raid in River Heights nets meth, fentanyl

Guest also said the fact that people can gain access to their own naloxone kits may be factor in why the numbers are down.

Then there’s the educational component: since 2016, Guest has made more than 300 presentations to youth, parent and community groups about the dangers of fentanyl and other drugs.

“There are a lot of community groups that are providing the educational content,” he said. “I like to think the prevention and harm reduction strategies that we’re implementing are making a difference.”

Guest said the numbers are encouraging, but they don’t tell the whole story.  They don’t include people going to hospitals for treatment, or self treating.

“A lot of people have already passed away from these drugs so I think we have to be sensitive to what’s happened in the past and quite frankly what’s going to keep happening.”

In all of 2017, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service treated 732 people with naloxone.

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