Getting Naloxone into the hands of people who need it

Narcan nasal spray is a popular version of naloxone, an antidote to fentanyl overdose. Troy Shantz

Cathy Dobson 

Naloxone may be controversial but it is saving the lives of Sarnians, says Marcel Laporte.

The manager of the Bluewater Methadone Clinic Pharmacy wants more of the drug that revives overdose victims given to people who know opioid addicts. And he wants family and friends taught how to use it.

So the pharmacy is hosting a barbecue and Naloxone Training Day on Aug. 30.

“The government did a very good thing by introducing free Naloxone nasal kits,” said Laporte. “Nobody takes a drug in order to die.”

An overdose victim can die in minutes after losing consciousness. But when naloxone hydrochloride is administered it temporarily blocks the opioid. Free kits have been available in nasal spray form for about a year now and Laporte said he regularly sees its impact first hand.

This summer, a man pulled up in a vehicle outside the methadone clinic. His girlfriend had overdosed.

“She was keeled over in the truck and he had no Naloxone,” said Laporte.  “Our staff pharmacist ran out and administered three kits before she came around.

“We’ve also had occasions when people run in here and grab a kit for someone down the street.

Bluewater Methadone Clinic Pharmacy manager Marcel Laporte.
Cathy Dobson

“We hear of people overdosing every day,” he said.

Free Naloxone kits are distributed by numerous agencies and pharmacies in Sarnia. The BMC Pharmacy alone handed out about 500 kits last year.

Laporte said he realizes critics say that having kits available removes the fear of dying and enables opioid users.

“It’s a tough question,” he said.  “But I do think the kits are making it safer for those in the midst of a struggle. Death is death and that should be enough of an argument in favour of the kits.”

Laporte prefers the term ‘opioid overuse disorder’ to addiction because of the stigma and stereotypes that surround opioid use.

“Trust me, the people I see every day come from all kinds of backgrounds. They could be your neighbour, your doctor, your lawyer. Many are highly functional individuals,” he said.

The BMC in Sarnia sees about 1,200 patients fighting opioid addiction through the use of methadone or suboxone. That number hasn’t changed in some time. Another 400 or so attend an affiliated clinic in Chatham.

“The reality is that the road to recovery is not straight,” said Laporte.  “It’s a struggle and no one wants to fail.”

As street drugs become increasingly potent and dangerous, overdoses are not declining. If anything, they are increasing, he said.

“That’s why we have to do our best to get the kits into the hands of the people most likely to need them, the ones with friends and family who are users.”

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Barbecue, Naloxone training and free kits

WHEN:  Friday Aug. 30, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in conjunction with International Overdose Awareness Day.

WHERE: BMC Pharmacy, 118 Victoria St.

COST: Free. Donations welcome.