Life-saving drug naloxone provided to P.A. bars and lounges in wake of opioid crisis

(From left to right) AIDS Saskatoon support services worker Fred Simpson, The Tartan Table chef and owner Niall Kerr and outreach nurse at Access Place Brittany Nicolas pose with the provided naloxone kits. (Saskatchewan Health Authority/Submitted)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority and AIDS Saskatoon are providing naloxone kits and training on how to use them to staff at bars and lounges.

Fred Simpson is with AIDS Saskatoon regional support services in Prince Albert. He said naloxone is the only drug that will save someone from an opioid overdose.

Opioids are pain medications. They include morphine, hydromorphone, codeine and fentanyl—and Simpson says Canada is experiencing an “opioid crisis.”

According to the Government of Canada, approximately 11 people died each day to an opioid overdose in the country in 2017.

“If you take too much of (opioids), it’s suppressing your system and making you not wake up, so it dampens the way you breathe and the way you think and you just keep on going and going and going until your heart stops,” explained Simpson.

Naloxone, a non-addictive prescription medication, will knock out opioid receptors in the brain and reverse the overdose.

While it’s usually provided by an emergency responder, other members of the public can potentially save a life with a little training.

The first establishment to receive a naloxone kit for this initiative is The Tartan Table.

Chef and owner Niall Kerr said it’s always good to be prepared if an overdose were to happen. Although an overdose has never happened in the restaurant, he said he’s come across someone who may have been close to one in the area.

“There was one time, it was in the back parking lot here. I thought someone was on their way, but she just popped up, like all of a sudden. Just freaky, it kind of freaked me out,” said Kerr.

“She woke up and she had a needle, it was in her face.”

He said he may even carry the naloxone kit in his vehicle in case he comes across someone in need of help.

Kerr and his staff who chose to were trained on how to use the drug on Thursday afternoon.

Simpson said those who go through the training will learn about how naloxone works, where on the body to inject it and the legalities of the drug.

“If you are around a person and they overdose and you do get naloxone and let’s say something does happen, let’s say they don’t come back, you’re not liable for something that you injected into them,” he said.

Other illegal drugs can be laced with opioids, particularly fentanyl, which is 100 times stronger than morphine.

“A lot of drugs, maybe cocaine or methamphetamine, even marijuana, could be laced with fentanyl or any type of opioid, but fentanyl right now is the big kind of drug out there that everyone’s talking about,” said Simpson.

“It’s important that every establishment that does partake in drinking or any kind of fun activities that can damper someone’s judgment…have and be ready for, just in case, an overdose to happen.”

He added that AIDS Saskatoon will provide naloxone kits and training to businesses that feel a need to have one on their site. However, they’re focusing on bars and lounges because people tend to experiment with drugs when they’re drinking.

Businesses who are interested in receiving training can call Access Place at 306-765-6549 or Fred Simpson at 306-941-8595.