May 28, 2016 - 9:30 AM
KAMLOOPS - A Kamloops social worker wants fewer government restrictions so his organization can easily provide the potentially life saving drug naloxone to illicit drug users.
ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes says the overdose-reversing drug naloxone should be handed out with the harm reduction kits already distributed to people who use opiates like heroin and fentanyl.
“My belief is that we need to have these at locations where people are accessing harm reduction,” he says. “We cannot be registered as a naloxone distribution site because we don’t have a nurse on site.”
Hughes is working on getting regulations around naloxone relaxed for wider distribution, discussing the issue with provincial health minister Terry Lake and the Interior Health Authority, but says progress is slow.
Lake says he’s talked to Hughes about the issue and connected him the the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, but there’s a process that needs to happen.
“I know that Bob’s folks are very well versed in that, but we still need to go through a process,” he says. “I’m confident working with together with Interior Health and the King Street clinic that we’ll be able to provide the needed services, including the needs of ASK Wellness.”
Hughes would like to see B.C. make naloxone available over the counter at pharmacies without a prescription, something other provinces are moving towards.
Street nurses occasionally stop at the outreach centre on the North Shore and hand out naloxone kits. Staff have a couple naloxone kits on hand to use if someone overdoses nearby, but Hughes says the opiate antidote should be available to any user who comes to them for harm reduction kits.
“We’re basically on the sidelines,” he says. “We’re making do. It isn’t as easy as it should be.”
Hughes says using naloxone is relatively simple and ASK Wellness staff could receive training in order to be allowed to offer it. He also points out that intravenous drug users are already familiar with needle use.
“It’s not complicated to do,” he says.
Naloxone is benign to the public because it replaces opiates in the brain, causing immediate withdrawal in someone using an opiate, but to a non-user there wouldn’t be an effect.
“I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until, when we’re offering drug using kits, we’re also offering naloxone,” Hughes says.
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