P.E.I.'s PEERS Alliance hopes more Islanders are paying close attention to the drugs they consume, and know there are services out there to help those struggling with addiction.
Aug. 31 marks International Overdose Awareness Day, a day to commemorate those who have been lost to drug overdose and stimulate action and discussion about overdose prevention.
Lauren Sheidow, peer team co-ordinator with PEERS Alliance, said that overdoses and fentanyl-related deaths are up and that Islanders should be aware of that when consuming any street drugs.
"Overdoses related to fentanyl poisoning has gone up locally in the last few years, and that's impacting people who are consuming street-sourced substances," she said. "It's not just in opioids, it can be in anything you're using."
According to the province's website, in 2021 there were 25 accidental opioid-related overdoses, two of which involved fentanyl. In 2020, there were 19 accidental opioid-related overdoses, nine of which involved fentanyl.
This year, Sheidow and PEERS Alliance are working on a rural outreach project that would recruit people with experience of substance use in rural communities on P.E.I. to help deliver harm-reduction support within their networks and communities. These recruits, known as peer-leaders, will participate in training and receive support and compensation throughout the project.
"My hope is that individuals in our community are more aware of what's going on around them," she said.
How to use a naloxone kit
Whether you're using drugs or not, Sheidow said Islanders should have naloxone kits to protect friends, loved ones or anybody they suspect is overdosing.
It's a lifesaving kit that she said everyone should have on them.
"We hopefully will get to the point where everyone is carrying one … It promotes safe living amongst everyone," she said.
"It's not going to hurt anyone. If you found someone who may be in an apparent overdose, a naloxone kit it's not going to do any harm."
The following places on P.E.I. offer naloxone kits for free:
Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility.
Queen Street Recovery Clinic.
Montague/Souris Community Mental Health and Addictions.
Provincial Correctional Centre.
Mental Health and Addictions Summerside.
They can also be purchased without a prescription for about $50 at most P.E.I. pharmacies. Hospitals, emergency departments, provincial correctional facilities, opioid replacement clinics, EMS and police are also equipped with naloxone.
Fentanyl strips available
Fentanyl testing strips are also available to the public for free, and can be used to test any substance being used.
"Hopefully people, kind of, reach for those more often and they're checking their substances," she said. "It's quick, it's easy."
To do a fentanyl test, you'd take the strip and dilute a portion of the drugs in water and dip in the test strip. After waiting about a minute, you'd get a reading showing if there are trace amounts of fentanyl in the drug.
Those strips are available through PEERS Alliance and the Charlottetown Outreach Centre too, Sheidow said.
PEERS Alliance is hosting an event at the Summerside Rotary Library on Wednesday between noon and 4 p.m., launching their rural outreach project and giving tutorials on, as well as distributing, naloxone kits and fentanyl test strips.