On Thursday, December 29th, my letter sent as Chair of the Ottawa Board of Health (BOH) to the editor was published in the Ottawa Citizen urging the public to be aware and understand the dangers associated with the increase in celebrations for New Years Eve in relation to drug use.
With the potential of party-goers trying to heighten their celebratory experiences on New Year’s Eve, I felt it was my responsibility as Chair of the BOH to share Ottawa Public Health’s message over the growing health concern for the rising availability of the more potent fentanyls in our city.
I stated in my letter that the obvious way to avoid overdose was to avoid drug use in its entirety, however, the reality of the situation is that not all drug users adhere to this type of direct message. I did present how to reduce the risks should one decide to use or know someone at potential risk. One of these suggestions is to carry a naloxone kit, a medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The kit includes two vials of naloxone, syringes, gloves and instructions.
I advised that anyone looking for a list of Ottawa pharmacies that carry naloxone could call the Drug and Alcohol Helpline at 1-800-565-8603. Unfortunately, those individuals who decided to be proactive and go to a pharmacy were turned away with pharmacists saying that they either did not carry naloxone or that they refused to give it out at random due to the fact that they felt the need to educate the client on how to administer the needle. Pharmacists in Ontario have been allowed to provide free naloxone kits without a prescription to people with an Ontario health card since June.
OPH recognizes the inability or hesitance for some pharmacists to distribute naloxone kits as a communication concern. This concern needs to be addressed going forward and OPH will work at clarifying this message so that the appropriate locations can be listed as to who will dispense the kits upon request.
For more information about naloxone and overdose prevention I encourage you to visit http://ottawa.ca/en/residents/public-health/healthy-living/alcohol-drugs-and-tobacco/drugs#ottawa-overdose-prevention.
For any other inquiries about the risks of fentanyl or any other Board of Health related matters, please do not hesitate to contact me at Shad.Qadri@ottawa.ca and I will be happy to deliver you additional information.