The opioid epidemic: taking new measures to save lives

published on November 23, 2017 in The University of British Columbia

British Columbia is in the grips of a public health emergency.

To help stem the tide, the Government of B.C. has implemented new measures. Whether it’s training communities on how to prevent and respond to overdoses, distributing free naloxone kits, or lifting restrictions for prescribing treatments, all of these new measures aim to save lives.

But what effect have these actions had?

Nadia Fairbairn, assistant professor at UBC’s Department of Medicine and Director of the Canada Addiction Medicine Research Fellowship with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU), is on the path to find out. She’s leading a five-year study exploring the impact of these changes in preventing overdoses.

“It’s been really hard on people, and it’s been really stressful for families and friends,” she says. “We’re seeing a difference in terms of education and peer support. People are more aware of safer using practices and know how to recognize and respond to overdose.”

“We also have several walk-in clinics that have medications on hand to start people on treatment right away and to link them with the right care.”

The study will also evaluate how changes in prescribing patterns and policy impact people’s illicit drug practices, and whether it increases their risk for fentanyl exposure.

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