Algonquin students gathered at the Mamidosewin Centre on Oct. 22 to receive free naloxone training and kits.
The harm reduction workshop was presented by the AC Umbrella Project in partnership with the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre.
Robert Craig, an Algonquin student working with the Umbrella Project, said that naloxone is something “not a lot of people know about” even though they know what fentanyl is.
Naloxone is a medication that counteracts and can temporarily reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. In Ontario, injectable and nasal spray naloxone kits are available for free at pharmacies with a valid health card, shelters, outreach or withdrawal programs and community agencies like the Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre.
“I know people that should have used it, didn’t use it and ended up overdosing,” says Cyle Enos, a third-year student studying child and youth care completing a placement with the Umbrella Project.
Opioid use is at an all-time high with fentanyl-related deaths sky-rocketing above other opiates such as heroin, morphine, methadone, and codeine. According to Public Health Ontario, the number of opioid-related deaths has increased by 246 per cent since 2003.
This translates to over 1250 Ontarians who died from opioid-related causes in 2017; 64 of these deaths occurred in Ottawa, 46 of which were caused by fentanyl.
Heather Jones, an addictions counsellor with Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre, encouraged students to seek out the naloxone training and kits in order to take care of one other.
“Anybody who knows another human being on this planet should have a kit,” Jones said, regardless of whether one is a user, or knows drug-users because one never knows what can happen around them.
Denis Manirarora, a student at the college, participated in the training simply because he is going to be working out in the community.
“I’m in social service work and I’m interested in helping.”
Participants learned to recognize the symptoms of an opioid overdose, which include little movement, slow to no breathing, cold and clammy skin, blue nails and lips, tiny pupils, choking and restricted breathing causing a sound similar to snoring.
Naloxone can be used without any harm to the overdosing individual even if the substance taken is unknown. However, it will only reverse the effects if the overdose is caused by an opioid.
“It’s cut into anything,” said Enos explaining how people who are intending to use cocaine or other ‘party-drugs’ are accidentally consuming fentanyl.
The Umbrella Project works to create a safer space for students to talk about these issues and therefore discuss harm reduction.
Amanda Neilson, a harm reduction consultant with the AC Umbrella Project, says that harm reduction “is the idea of being able to decrease the risks around using without necessarily needed to stop all use.”
She uses driving a car as a metaphor explaining that although driving is a very high-risk activity, people are not discouraged from getting a license. Instead, there are rules and guidelines in place to make driving safer — like seat belts, stop signs, speed limits and so on. “It’s the same thing when it comes to substances in college and university environments,” said Neilson.
The OATC encourages people to bring substances to the Sandy Hill OATC for testing before using There is also a supervised injection site located at the Sandy Hill OATC.
Recently, the OATC’s drug testing has found Levamisole, an animal de-wormer, in cocaine in the Ottawa area. The antibiotic causes abscesses in the body and can lead to body parts falling off. More information regarding drug testing results can be found posted at OATC locations.
Information on upcoming naloxone training at the college and the locations of kits kept on campus can be found online through the AC Umbrella Project at http://www.algonquincollege.com/umbrellaproject.