SASKATOON — Saskatchewan is starting a pilot program aimed at helping reduce opioid overdoses before emergency help can arrive.
A take-home kit with an antidote to opioids such as fentanyl, morphine, heroin, methadone or oxycodone is soon to be available at a pilot site in Saskatoon.
The kit contains naloxone, which is used as an opioid overdose treatment in emergency departments and administered by paramedics in emergency situations. It can restore breathing to an individual experiencing an overdose.
However, health officials say the best thing to do is still call 911.
"The take-home naloxone kits do not replace the need for immediate treatment by trained medical professionals, but in the event of an opioid overdose, may buy some critical time for first responders to reach the patient and begin treatment,'' said Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer.
Drug users and those who may witness an overdose will get training on how to use the kits.
Fentanyl is an opioid that is 50 to 100 times more potent than heroin, oxycodone or morphine. It is a prescribed painkiller that is often added to illegal drugs without people knowing.
Saskatchewan's chief coroner says there were 25 fentanyl-related deaths across the province between January 2013 and August 2015. Twelve of those were in Saskatoon.
Saskatchewan is actually lagging behind Alberta and British Columbia when it comes to distributing the take-home naloxone kits.
B.C.'s take-home naloxone program was introduced in August 2012. There are currently more than 70 registered kit-dispensing sites across the province, according to HealthLink B.C.'s website.
Alberta Health Services website says it rolled out the kits across the province over the summer in to a response to a growing number of fentanyl-related deaths. There have been 145 deaths related to fentanyl use across Alberta in the first six months of this year alone.
The one-year project grant in Alberta covers funding to distribute an estimated 3,250 kits across the province.