What is Naloxone?
Before we discuss the British Columbia Naloxone Program, it’s best to understand Naloxone use. Naloxone is drug used to counter the effects of an opioid overdose, such as heroin or morphine. Naloxone is often included as a part of emergency overdose kits distributed drug users.
The BC Naloxone Program
Since 2012, the BC Naloxone Program has aimed to provide Naloxone to those at risk of an overdose. At participating sites, potential participants are trained to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose situation, if eligible they are prescribed a Naloxone kit. The kit includes some of the following: Naloxone, syringes, gloves, mask and alcohol swabs.
Why do communities need a Naloxone Program?
Since 85% of overdoses happen within the company of others, a Naloxone kit offers witnesses the opportunity to save while waiting for the first responders to arrive. In BC, Naloxone was used 2,367 times in 2011, yet there were still 256 deaths due to drug overdose.
The dilemma for first responders
What happens when a first responder arrives at the scene of an overdose but they don’t know if it’s Naloxone or more opioid in the syringe? This question was recently presented to Iridia’s Medical Director, Dr. Allan Holmes by BC first responders. Here’s what he had to say:
“If first responders arrive at the scene after the medication has been drawn up, then they should look for:
- A Naloxone kit
- An opened vial
- A used syringe from the kit
- Clear liquid in the syringe
If confirmed, then there’s strong evidence that proper procedures are being followed. It would be highly unlikely in this scenario that someone would use components of the kit and THEN switch to an illicit drug.”
The bottom line
Placing Naloxone in the hands of patients using opioids is proven to save lives. First responders should not stop individuals from administering the medication. If the Naloxone kit is present and the individual is prepared, then the injection should be allowed to occur.
Refusal to permit the Naloxone treatment should only occur with significant cause. For example, there is a full syringe that someone is about to inject and the kit is nowhere to be found or is unopened.
Dilemmas presented by the BC Naloxone Program and other similar programs are some of the major reasons Iridia continues to advocate for enhanced education for our first responders. Particularly, in the case of an overdose, they should have appropriate training and access to lifesaving equipment.
Learn how Iridia is helping to enhance first responder training: http://blog.iridiamedical.com/2014/02/26/first-responder-licensing/