By Cassie MacDonell
Local Journalism Initiative
Although Quebec is not facing an opioid crisis on the same level as in areas like British Columbia, the province has experienced an increased amount of accidental opioid overdoses in recent years. Canadian provinces and territories faced a surge of accidental opioid overdose deaths during to the pandemic, and Quebec was no exception. During the first year of the pandemic, there was a 96 per cent increase in Canada of apparent opioid toxicity deaths, compared to the year before.
In response to this increasing risk, the Quebec government has begun to offer free naloxone kits in most pharmacies and public health units. Naloxone is a drug used to temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, which gives enough time for emergency responders to arrive and help the individual.
According to the government of Quebec’s resource for finding sites that offer access (located online at https://sante.gouv.qc.ca/en/repertoire-ressources/naloxone/) 51 Eastern Townships pharmacies and public health units offer naloxone.
Trish Lamb, who has gone through the process of obtaining and training with a naloxone kit in the Eastern Townships, outlined her experience.
“It was pretty easy to get a kit and get the training that goes along with it. No questions were asked, and no prescription is needed” she said. “Even if I don’t have a kit on me when something happens, I now know how to administer it,” she said.
In 2019, Quebec had the second lowest accidental opioid overdose rate with 203 fatalities. In 2020, that number shot up 32 per cent to 547, although numbers may actually be lower due to a new method of reporting these results.
Medically, opioids are for pain relief, but they can be misused and purchased illegally. Fentanyl, heroin, morphine, and oxytocin are examples provided by Health Canada of street opioid drugs. When an individual takes more opioids than their body can handle, they can overdose, which can lead to brain injury, cardiac arrest, and death.
Opioid overdose can affect anyone. “When people think opioids, they think a lot about street drugs. But people can overdose on prescription drugs too,” said Lamb. “I personally got mine because I know drug users, so you never know,” she said. “It’s good to have the naloxone and the training, just in case.”
She explained that she did not think it necessary for everyone to receive a kit and training. But she also said that having one on hand doesn’t hurt.
“I think it’s really helpful to anyone working in a place where people could come into contact with someone overdosing. Maybe if you work at a bar, or you’re a mental health worker,” she said . “I don’t think everybody needs to have one. If you’re in a place where (overdoses) are prevalent then I think it’s great. But I still think it’s good to have that knowledge, even if you never end up using it,” she said.