Mcgill’s re­sponse to fen­tanyl cri­sis still lack­ing

Floor fel­lows for­bid­den from ad­min­is­ter­ing nalox­one

The McGill Daily - - News - Ana Paula Sanchez The Mcgill Daily

Canada is cur­rently deal­ing with an on­go­ing fen­tanyl cri­sis, and the grow­ing num­ber of deaths have spiked se­ri­ous con­cern from Health Canada. The min­istry has con­cluded that nearly 2,800 over­dose deaths have oc­curred due to fen­tanyl over­doses this past year alone.

Fen­tanyl is a syn­thetic opi­oid, typ­i­cally ad­min­is­tered in­tra­venously or through trans­der­mal patches for chronic pain man­age­ment. De­vel­oped in the 1960s by Paul Janssen, a noted Bel­gian physi­cian, fen­tanyl has be­come an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar pre­scrip­tion. How­ever, its ef­fi­cacy and ad­dic­tive na­ture has re­sulted in wide­spread abuse. An over­dose in fen­tanyl can re­sult in se­vere res­pi­ra­tory de­pres­sion, sleep ap­nea, and death. Just 3 mil­ligrams will kill an av­er­a­ge­sized adult, and ac­cord­ing to the Cen­tre for Disease Con­trol (CDC), it is 50 to 100 times more po­tent than mor­phine.

Af­ter the United States, Canada is the world’s sec­ond largest con­sumer of pre­scrip­tion opi­oids. The rel­a­tive ease with which fen­tanyl can be pre­scribed in Canada has led to high de­mand for the drug, mainly as a con­se­quence of de­pen­dency. Some in­di­vid­u­als, when they are no longer able to ac­cess the drug through their doc­tor, turn to street distrib­u­tors.

Que­bec, mean­while, has a unique his­tory of il­licit sub­stance dis­tri­bu­tion by biker gangs and the mob. Ac­cord­ing to some sources, fen­tanyl may have en­tered the lo­cal drug mar­ket ac­ci­den­tally, due to im­proper drug man­u­fac­tur­ing prac­tices. Deal­ers of­ten use the same tools to cut dif­fer­ent drugs; un­for­tu­nately, as fen­tanyl is ex­tremely po­tent, trace amounts can be mixed un­in­ten­tion­ally with other sub­stances, with po­ten­tially fa­tal re­sults. As a re­sult, com­mu­ni­ties across Que­bec must pre­pare for the fact that fen­tanyl could be found in more pop­u­lar drugs such as MDMA, PCP, co­caine, heroin, al­pra­zo­lam (Xanax), and ke­tamine.

As of Au­gust 2017, there have been over 90 drug over­doses in Mon­treal, 10 of which have been defini­tively linked to fen­tanyl. Mayor De­nis Coderre cur­rently “[wants] to speak to ev­ery­one con­cerned by this sit­u­a­tion,” and has launched a pi­lot pro­gram to train more first re­spon­ders. Mean­while, the Que­bec Min­istry of Health is work­ing on leg­is­la­tion to in­crease the avail­abil­ity of nalox­one, a sub­stance that coun­ter­acts the ef­fects of a fen­tanyl over­dose.

Mcgill has yet to of­fer any re­sources or in­for­ma­tion on the grow­ing fen­tanyl cri­sis in Canada, or meth­ods by which stu­dents can keep them­selves safe. How­ever, Hashana Per­era, Di­rec­tor of Stu­dent Health Ser­vices, did ac­knowl­edge the cri­sis dur­ing a press con­fer­ence on Septem­ber 14. She claimed that Stu­dent Health Ser­vices will pro­vide nalox­one and drug-test­ing kits for stu­dents as soon as Que­bec leg­is­la­tion per­mits.

Sonya Bharadwa, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Mcgill Stu­dent Emer­gency Re­sponse Team (MSERT), emailed The Daily about mea­sures that the uni­ver­sity is tak­ing to ad­dress the cri­sis.

“As of now, the only first re­spon­ders that have ac­cess to and train­ing to use nalox­one are paramedics,” ex­plained Bharadwa. “Re­cently, the gov­ern­ment of Que­bec an­nounced a plan to ex­pand the scope of peo­ple al­lowed to ad­min­is­ter the medicine.”

“MSERT is work­ing with Stu­dent Healwth Ser­vices,” Bharadwa con­tin­ued, “as they are cur­rently build­ing a train­ing mod­ule for nalox­one that they can of­fer Mcgill com­mu­nity mem­bers. They will also help us find a sup­plier for nalox­one so that MSERT can carry it. Un­til then, our cur­rent pro­to­col is to call 911 for sus­pected over­doses, mon­i­tor vi­tal signs, and pro­vide sta­bi­liz­ing care un­til EMS ar­rives. In terms of fen­tanyl safety, we hope that in ad­di­tion to the clinic, which does have in­jectable doses of nalox­one, both floor fel­lows and MSERT will re­ceive nalox­one train­ing, as this will pro­vide nearly a 24-hour re­sponse plan.”

It is well known that stu­dents are highly sus­cep­ti­ble to recre­ational drug use, es­pe­cially when ex­posed to en­vi­ron­ments such as stu­dent res­i­dences. Grow­ing con­cern over the pos­si­bil­ity of fen­tanyl over­doses on cam­pus has in­creased the de­mand for nalox­one train­ing to be given to Mcgill floor fel­lows.

When in­ves­ti­gat­ing pro­to­cols con­cern­ing fen­tanyl over­doses in res­i­dences, a floor fel­low who wished to re­main anony­mous told The Daily that “ad­min­is­ter­ing nalox­one to stu­dents in res­i­dences is strictly for­bid­den, as it poses too high of a li­a­bil­ity risk to the Uni­ver­sity.”

“In my opin­ion,” the floor fel­low con­tin­ued, “this pol­icy is in­cred­i­bly short­sighted and ig­no­rant of nalox­one’s pur­pose and mech­a­nism of ac­tion. In light of the re­cent surge in opi­oid over­doses through­out Mon­treal, floor fel­lows have been push­ing Stu­dent Hous­ing and Hos­pi­tal­ity Ser­vices to fa­cil­i­tate work­shops and train­ing re­lated to the fen­tanyl cri­sis and over­dose first aid.

Another floor fel­low en­cour­aged col­leagues to take a free nalox­one ad­min­is­tra­tion work­shop of­fered by a lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tion un­af­fil­i­ated with the uni­ver­sity. Many floor fel­lows have al­ready taken this train­ing. De­spite be­ing well- equipped with knowl­edge of harm- re­duc­tion and cer­ti­fied in ad­min­is­ter­ing nalox­one, how­ever, they are of­fi­cially pro­hib­ited from tak­ing any ac­tion to pre­vent a fen­tanyl over­dose from be­com­ing fa­tal.

“As of now, the only first re­spon­ders that have ac­cess to and train­ing to use nalox­one are paramedics.” — Sonya Bharadwa, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Mcgill Stu­dent Emer­gency Re­sponse Team

“In terms of fen­tanyl safety, we hope that in ad­di­tion to the clinic, which does have in­jectable doses of nalox­one, both floor fel­lows and MSERT will re­ceive nalox­one train­ing.” — Sonya Bharadwa, Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor of Mcgill Stu­dent Emer­gency Re­sponse Team

Rayleigh lee | The Mcgill Daily

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.