‘Naloxone saves lives’: Drop in number of fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta

Drop in number of fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta
WATCH: A new report from the province shows that the number of fentanyl-related deaths has dropped in Alberta. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, an addictions agency says the distribution of naloxone kits is saving lives.

New statistics from Alberta’s health ministry show that there were 120 fentanyl-related deaths in the province between July 1 and Sept. 30.

That is down from 156 deaths in the previous quarter and it’s the lowest number since early 2017.

According to the Q3 Opioid Response Surveillance Report, the number of deaths hit a peak at the same time last year when 180 people died in the third quarter.

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The executive director of the Alberta Community Council on HIV (ACCH) said it’s still too early to say if this is a trend, but it does demonstrate that interventions used in Alberta are starting to work.

“The work that has been going on for all of these years is starting to have an impact,” said Celeste Hayward on Saturday.

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“Things like naloxone distribution and the supervised consumption and all of the other wraparound services that surround what happens when a person comes in who is using substances.”

The report said in the most recent quarter, there were 16,880 visits to the supervised consumption site at Calgary’s Sheldon M. Chumir Health Centre.

That’s up slightly from earlier this year but down from a high of over 18,051 at the end of 2018.

‘Skyrocketing number of reversals’

According to the report, from Jan. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2019, 195,460 naloxone kits were dispensed in the province through Alberta Health Services’ naloxone program, and 12,830 reversals were self-reported.

“Naloxone saves lives in an opioid crisis, and I think it’s impressive that they are going out and not only are they going out to our [ACCH] projects, they’re also being used and those reversals are being reported back,” Hayward said.

“We are part of an evaluation project with Alberta Health Services to track those reversals being reported so I think this is all a really positive impact.”

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Hayward said data from ACCH points to the success of the naloxone kit distribution.

“We are the number one reporter for reversal data,” Hayward said.

“It has shown a skyrocketing number of reversals that are happening. So we know our training is working and we know the distribution is working to save lives. The commitment to that program and the distribution through our eight project sites is important to continue past April 1. The funding is up March 31.”

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Currently, funding for all new supervised consumption sites in Alberta is on hold until a review is completed. That review is expected early in the new year.

Since Jan. 1, 2016, 1,993 individuals in Alberta died from an apparent accidental drug poisoning death related to fentanyl.

On average, just under two people die every day in Alberta as a result of an apparent accidental opioid poisoning, according to the AHS report.