Saskatoon paramedics gave nearly 5 times as many naloxone doses last year as in 2019: EMS provider

·2 min read
Naloxone, which can reverse deadly opioid overdoses once given, comes in injectable and nasal spray kits. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC - image credit)
Naloxone, which can reverse deadly opioid overdoses once given, comes in injectable and nasal spray kits. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC - image credit)

Paramedics in Saskatoon administered the drug overdose antidote naloxone over 609 times last year, according to a company that provides emergency medical services in Saskatchewan.

That's almost five times as many doses of naloxone (also sold under the brand name Narcan) as the 132 doses administered in 2019, according to Troy Davies, director of public affairs for Medavie Health Services West.

"These numbers are very alarming. When our paramedics administer Narcan this means the patient is in a critical state," Davies said in a news release issued Wednesday, during Paramedic Services Week.

"The increased stress on paramedics on dealing with these critical patients adds up quickly."

Medavie's numbers don't include naloxone doses given by police, firefighters or bystanders.

Kayla DeMong, executive director of the Saskatoon non-profit Prairie Harm Reduction, said these aren't just statistics.

"They're people's children and family members and friends.… We are losing people at a higher rate than we have ever seen here," DeMong said.

"There's a real human factor to it that I think gets lost when we talk about people that use substances."

Submitted by Kayla DeMong
Submitted by Kayla DeMong

Davies said there are no hot spots for drug overdoses in Saskatoon, and overdose calls come from across the city.

He said paramedics now have Narcan kits stocked in ambulances to hand out to bystanders when responding to overdose calls. The province says it has distributed more than 29,000 take-home naloxone kits since its program started in 2015.

Naloxone temporarily reverses the slowed breathing caused by opioid overdoses, and can be injected or administered as a nasal spray.

DeMong isn't surprise by the increase in calls for the opioid overdose antidote.

"We know that we have an increase of fentanyl coming into our province and a compromised drug supply in part because of COVID," she said.

Dan McGarvey/CBC
Dan McGarvey/CBC

She wants the province to start implementing recommendations from a community consultation it commissioned, the results of which were released earlier this year.

task force created in 2017 to look into the province's crisis of drug overdose deaths heard from people who pointed to a need for reduced wait lists for addictions and mental health services, as well as increased capacity and hours at detox, treatment and aftercare centres.

The task force also heard calls for the decriminalization of drugs, access to a safe drug supply and support for harm reduction services — including supervised consumption sites.

DeMong said those recommendations will save lives and money.

"By not investing in services like harm reduction and safe consumption sites and not having a full spectrum of services readily available to people that use substances, we are costing this province billions of dollars each year," she said.

"By withholding these funding streams and not investing in our community, the taxpayers are spending more and more money every year to support the costs for hospital visits and emergency room and paramedics and police and fire."

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