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Winnipeg first responders administering more doses of naloxone: WFPS stats

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New statistics from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service show the use of naloxone in the city is on the rise. Marney Blunt reports – Jul 27, 2021

New statistics from the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) show the use of naloxone in the city is on the rise.

The drug, an opioid antagonist that is used to rapidly reverse a drug overdose, was administered 789 times in 2019, and more than doubled last year.

So far, in 2021, a whopping 916 people have needed naloxone doses as of July 10.

Read more: Drug overdose deaths spiked 87 per cent in Manitoba last year

Winnipeg police Const. Lindsey Stevens told Global News there’s a huge benefit to all first responders carrying naloxone, citing an incident Thursday in Charleswood, where police were able to save a man’s life.

“There was a motorist passing the Harte Trail system in the Charleswood area, when he was flagged down by a very panicked male that came running out of the area,” said Stevens.

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“The male asked this motorist to call 911, and then he fled back into the forested area.”

Nearby police officers followed up on the call, and after venturing about a half-kilometre into the forested area of the trail, they found a man calling for help and performing CPR on another man.

The officers, Stevens said, administered multiple doses of naloxone, and the man was revived and able to be walked out of the forest to be cared for by on-scene paramedics.

“It’s a lifesaving tool these days,” he said.

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“There’s an opioid and a methamphetamine crisis going on in Winnipeg, so it’s important the first responders have access to this, and I think it’s extremely beneficial that members of the Winnipeg Police Service are outfitted with these doses.

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“It does seem to be a growing issue within Winnipeg. I don’t think it’s exclusive to one area in particular. There are a lot of people in our city that struggle with some very terrible addictions, and they need help and they need resources.”

Danny Smyth. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods

Winnipeg police chief Danny Smyth said Tuesday that the drug crisis is still very much in effect in Winnipeg — it’s just been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The supply chain has been disrupted a little bit in the last couple of years, but there’s still evidence of fentanyl here,” he said.

“Our biggest concern there is when it’s not medical grade fentanyl, there’s inconsistencies in the manufacturing, which puts a lot of users at risk because they just don’t know how the concentration is.

“The other thing that we saw a little bit is some mixing of drugs, and that always causes us concern as well. So, you know, the drug trade is still alive. There are a lot of people that are vulnerable.”

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Marion Willis of St. Boniface Street Links told 680 CJOB another problem with the current drug epidemic is that cutting agents used in many drugs can sometimes mean naloxone — at least a single dose — isn’t necessarily enough to save a life anymore.

“It is really, really, really bad out there. The numbers that you’re seeing in terms of the elevation in naloxone injections is going to correspond to an increase in the number of opioid deaths again this year. Something has to change here,” said Willis.

Read more: 17 Canadians died per day from opioids in 2020 amid COVID-19 crisis, PHAC says

“The drugs are cut with all kinds of different agents, and that certainly impacts the effectiveness of the naloxone.

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“We have a drug epidemic in this city and this province — it’s a drug epidemic that nobody has really yet come together in a meaningful way to address. There needs to be a movement, and it needs to be from community-led organizations supported by the city and by the province to inform the strategy, resources, so that we can move forward in a better way.”

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