Use of opioid overdose antidote by paramedics jumps 222% in 1 year

published on May 10, 2017 by Karissa Donkin in CBC News

Ambulance N.B. naloxone policy changes after fentanyl claims thousands of lives across Western Canada

Paramedics at Ambulance New Brunswick are using naloxone more often, according to new data released through a right to information request.

It shows that paramedics have used the antidote to reverse an opioid overdose 77 times in the first three months of 2017.

Overdose death toll in B.C. rises

For the last year, a special group has worked to track opioid overdose deaths in real-time in British Columbia, which declared a public health emergency last year to deal with the overdose crisis.

That province has managed to take overdose tracking a step further by speeding up autopsies at the coroner’s office, producing a weekly report on opioid overdose deaths.

In addition to coroner’s office data, the group uses information from paramedics and hospital emergency rooms, where doctors document the drug a person thought they were taking and what drugs showed up in urine analysis.

It’s helped officials target where and when to devote more resources to preventing overdose, according to Dr. Kanna Hayashi, a research scientist at the British Columbia Centre on Substance Use and a member of the tracking group.

“The rate of overdose death varies a lot by week,” Hayashi said.

“For example, we noticed a spike in overdose deaths during the week of cheque day.”

But real-time overdose tracking takes a lot of manpower and resources from the provincial government, Hayashi said.

And despite the work in B.C., the death toll is rising.

“Unfortunately, the number of opioid overdose deaths continue to climb, which is really, really devastating and disappointing,” Hayashi said.

“Fentanyl-detected overdose deaths continue to rise. There’s a lot more to be done.”

View the full article