Winnipeg paramedics are administering record amounts of naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses, as the city’s drug problem continues unabated despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Cory Guest, public education coordinator with the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS), told 680 CJOB that one of the problems first responders are encountering on the streets is drug users taking multiple drugs at once — so it’s hard to know what they’re working with.
“If you’re trying to approach a patient that is adamant they’re using a stimulant like methamphetamine, but they’re presenting like they’ve used a drug like fentanyl… it seems like naloxone is working for methamphetamine patients now, which is something very, very new to us.”
Paramedics, he said, have seen a marked increase in substance abuse calls — which began as far back as 2015.
As of Monday, paramedics had used naloxone a whopping 107 times in May — an average of about four times a day, and a record high one-month tally for the WFPS.
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According to numbers provided by the paramedic service, naloxone was employed only 75 times in the same period last year, and 88 times in April 2020.
The number for all of 2018 was just over 600. So far this year, 394 doses of naloxone have been administered — only five months into the year.
“That’s troubling, because year after year, we’re seeing all of our numbers rise,” said Guest.
WFPS on challenges presented by meth crisis
Winnipeg police Cst. Rob Carver said they’re also seeing an increase this year, anecdotally, and it’s leading to more violence.“We certainly have seen a number of extremely troubling incidents,” he said.
“A guy with a chainsaw a couple of weeks back, the incident with the hammer, with some violent assaults.
“Anecdotally, frontline officers are reporting this. I don’t know if there’s an underlying theme other than I think both (Const. Jay Murray) and I have alluded to the fact that we are certainly seeing a fair amount of drugs in the street, both methamphetamine and opioids. Those certainly are often contributing factors to violent calls.”