Naloxone is a drug which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Opioids are the family of narcotics that include morphine, heroine, oxycontin and fentanyl.
Fentanyl is a very powerful opioid that has been linked to a rash of overdoses across North America over the past year, so much so that the government of British Columbia has declared a health crisis to deal with the overdose issue.
A true danger of the drug is the fact that other narcotics have been found to be laced with fentanyl. Those who use drugs like heroine or cocaine might not know that their dose is laced with the powerful fentanyl.
In late 2016, the Cornwall Community Police Service (CCPS) and the Eastern Ontario Health Unit (EOHU) issued a warning about fentanyl in the area.
“Illicit Fentanyl can be found in any street drug and its concentration will vary from one pill to another due to the lack of quality control,” said Daniel Parkinson, Chief of Police in that statement. “Even a small amount of illicit Fentanyl can be deadly, which explains why it has caused hundreds of deaths throughout the country.”
Opioids work by attaching themselves to receptors in the brain, Naloxone has a greater affinity for these receptors and blocks them preventing or even reversing an overdose. However, the effect of Naloxone is short and if the opioid is still in the person's body, then the person can overdose again.
Naloxone was made a Schedule 2 drug in June, which meant that pharmacies could give kits to patients without a doctor's prescription.
Harry Haramis of Medical Arts Pharmacy said that at first, there was not much of a demand for the Naloxone kits, but that once people started to catch on, the demand slowly began to increase.
"Almost everybody is eligible if you are a person who could potentially save a life," said Haramis.
Those eligible for Naloxone kits have an Ontario Health card, are opioid addicts, former addicts who may relapse, or someone who is a family member of friend of someone who they are concerned could overdose on opioids.
Those seeking a Naloxone kit can go into pharmacies like Medical Arts who are offering them and simply ask for one. The pharmacy is required to instruct the recipient of the kit on how to properly use it, and also what to do in the case of an overdose.
For addicts pharmacists will offer instructions to avoid an overdose, like testing their drugs before taking a full dose, never taking drugs alone and having a plan in case of an overdose.