N.B. to give out free naloxone amid opioid-related deaths
In the wake of at least 17 opioid deaths in New Brunswick this year, the province has introduced a naloxone-kit program in response to a growing drug epidemic nationwide.
“We know that we are experiencing deaths due to overdoses based on opioids and having the kits in our community will absolutely save lives,” Matthew Smith, executive director of AIDS New Brunswick, said on Wednesday.
Health Minister Benoît Bourque announced the government will spend $150,000 to buy about 2,500 kits. Naloxone temporarily reverses overdoses caused by opioid drugs such as fentanyl or heroin.
The kits will be distributed free through needle-exchange programs with AIDS New Brunswick, AIDS Moncton and AIDS Saint John.
Mr. Smith called the 2,500 kits a good start, but said officials will have a better handle on how many are needed once the program gets under way.
The kits include naloxone, singleuse syringes, a pair of latex gloves, alcohol swabs, a one-way rescue breathing barrier mask and step-bystep instructions.
Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health, said 25 people died in New Brunswick owing to drugs during the first six months of this year – 17 of them related to opioids.
Last week, Dr. Russell announced that the powerful drug carfentanil was found in the system of an individual who died recently in southern New Brunswick. Carfentanil is a synthetic opioid about 100 times more powerful than fentanyl. Dr. Russell said what makes it so dangerous is that people don’t know it’s being included in other street drugs.
She said New Brunswick is learning from other provinces on how to address the opioid issue, especially from B.C., which declared a publichealth emergency in 2016 because of the number of fentanyl overdoses.