N.B. to give out free nalox­one amid opi­oid-re­lated deaths

The Globe and Mail (Atlantic Edition) - - NEWS - KEVIN BISSETT FRED­ER­IC­TON

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.

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