Compared to other regions in British Columbia, Vancouver saw the highest rate of opioid-related deaths in 2017. Find out what doctors, pharmacists and emergency medical responders are doing to combat the epidemic.

The primary use of opioids is to relieve pain. Examples of some of these opioids include Codeine, Morphine, Oxycodone, and Hydromorphone. When prescribed an opioid, patients are to follow directions exactly as provided to them by their physician and pharmacist. They should never be taken with alcohol or other medications (unless specified), should not be given to or taken by individuals whom the opioid was not originally prescribed to, and should always be stored in a safe and secure area that is out of reach of children and teenagers.

There are many short-term side-effects that come along with taking opioids including drowsiness, constipation, nausea, vomiting, as well as headaches. Unfortunately, there are also long-time side effects of opioids that can be dangerous. As opioids tend to cause feelings of euphoria, this can bring about an increased tolerance or dependence on the drug – which is why it is not recommended that you take opioids on a long-term basis. Extended use of opioids can also cause liver damage, infertility, an increase in pain, as well as life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

As a result, it is very easy for opioid users to become addicted and look for other ways to get the drug, such as on the street. This is extremely dangerous, as many street drugs are laced with unsafe levels of what’s known as fentanyl – a potent and deadly medication. Because of this, Health Canada is offering Naloxone kits to anyone at risk of experiencing or knowing anyone who might experience a drug overdose. Doctors are also looking at different ways to manage chronic pain in patients.

What is Naloxone and What Does it Do?

Naloxone is a drug that blocks and reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Common signs of an opioid overdose include sedation, unconsciousness, difficulty breathing, and low blood pressure medication. Due to the increase in the number of opioid-related deaths in Canada, Naloxone is an essential medication as it can save lives. It is important to note that Naloxone does not reverse overdoses related to benzodiazepines, psychostimulants (such as amphetamines or cocaine), or alcohol.

Naloxone is available in two formats: As a nasal spray or injectable. With Naloxone nasal spray, it is sprayed directly into the nose through the nostrils, and its effects will occur anywhere from 2 to 3 minutes. With the injectable form of Naloxone, it is injected intravenously into the veins, subcutaneously, or intramuscularly. When injected into the veins, its effects occur in less than 2 minutes, while the effects of subcutaneous or intramuscular injections take approximately 3 to 5 minutes.

For more information on Naloxone, including information on how to properly administer it and where you can find it, visit Health Canada’s website by clicking here.

If you have concerns about addiction – either for yourself or a loved one – do not hesitate to reach out to a physician. At Brentwood Medical Clinic, Dr. Ali Ghahary is available to see patients on a walk-in basis; and, as always, if you suspect someone is having an opioid-related overdose, you should always call 911 immediately.