The BC government has made naloxone kits available for free at pharmacies across the province, following $2 million in additional annual funding to its “Take Home Naloxone” program and a partnership with London Drugs.
Kit recipients are also not required to give identifying information.
For UBC students, the new policy will mean increased anonymous access to a life-saving substance previously only available for free via specified services and sites. On campus, the kits are now accessible at London Drugs and Save-On Foods’ pharmacy locations, as well as University Pharmacy.
This initiative is part of BC’s latest $322 million investment to fight the overdose crisis, which has seen 1,208 fatalities in the first 10 months of 2017. This statistic is nearly double the number from the first 10 months of last year, and more than the amount of motor vehicle deaths and suicides combined.
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An opioid antagonist, naloxone can counteract the effects of opioid overdoses for up to 30 minutes, giving the victim time to access life-saving medical services. Accordingly, medical and social service specialists have stressed naloxone access as key to reducing overdose fatalities.
“Take-home naloxone kits are a key harm reduction measure in our multi-pronged approach to combat the overdose crisis and have saved countless lives,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, BC Centre for Disease Control’s harm reduction lead.
At UBC, naloxone kits have been available via Student Health Services since April 2016. However, due to a combination of access barriers and changes to the campus’s naloxone policy, students have been hesitant to undergo the training. As of mid-November 2017, SHS had distributed 63 kits.
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The government’s latest move is an important step towards making naloxone accessible, especially for those uncomfortable accessing other health services, according to Stephanie Lake — a PhD student at the UBC School of Public Health and chair of the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Use’s Vancouver chapter.
“This is a great way to expand access to naloxone at no cost to individuals who may be at high risk of overdose or of witnessing an overdose, but who may not have felt comfortable accessing naloxone,” said Lake in a written statement to The Ubyssey.
This effort is also complemented by student-led initiatives in the fight against the overdose crisis.
For instance, AMS VICE — the student union’s addiction management service — has recently led two pilot “naloxone training parties” in conjunction with local harm-reduction service Karmik, training and equipping hundreds of students at once.
“No matter what students are doing, there will always be safer and less safe ways to do it,” said AMS VICE Coordinator Alex Dauncey in a previous emailed statement to The Ubyssey. “We want to provide pragmatic ways to move from high-risk towards low-risk.”