In the face of a mounting opioid crisis in Nova Scotia, Dalhousie University is equipping its first responders with naloxone kits for the first time.
The kits contain a syringe and a vial of the drug, and the syringe is typically injected in the outer thigh, says Dr. Glenn Andrea.
Dr. Andrea is the Medical Director for Dalhousie Student Health and Wellness and in his 25th year working at the school.
“I think it came about as a request from our security personnel,” who are trained first-responders he said. “They saw this is a beneficial add-on that they could have as a first response.”
The school’s first responders were trained over the summer, so they would be prepared for the new academic year. So far, no kits have been used at the school.
The province of Nova Scotia also made a big announcement this summer with regards to naloxone kits – they are soon going to be made available for free in hundreds of pharmacies across the province. The program was supposed to roll out at the beginning of September; as of this writing the release has been delayed as the province secures stock.
“The Nova Scotia Naloxone Take Home Program has not yet launched but will do so in the next week or so,” said Amy Wagg, Director of Communications for the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, in an emailed statement on Sept. 22. “Upon launch, a website will be available through the Government Website with a list of pharmacies that provide naloxone through this program.”
“Basically, it’s a public health initiative,” said Dr. Andrea, “to improve access to naloxone as a potential lifesaving measure for suspected opioid overdoses.”
Although there isn’t an opioid abuse concern on campus – as far as Dalhousie Student Health and Wellness is aware – it’s still important for the school to be prepared in case there is an overdose on campus.
“We’ve taken a precautionary, proactive approach and want to make sure that at least our first responders were both trained or equipped with naloxone should they happen upon a student with a suspected opioid overdose,” he said.
Dr. Andrea says that if you suspect someone on campus is having an opioid crisis, the first step is to call security instead of 911. Security personnel are trained first responders, and with their intimate knowledge of the campus they can facilitate the movement of the emergency health responders to the location of the suspected overdose.
Dr. Andrea also recommends that, “if the student appears to be having difficulty with breathing, slow respirations, blue discolouration, if anybody in the area is trained in rescue breathing, to initiate that immediately while waiting for security.”
Before it gets to that, Dr. Andrea stresses that the university has a support system in place for students struggling with substance abuse.
“We would encourage anybody who’s currently using opiates to maybe have a conversation with a health professional,” he said.
“Most of us would obviously encourage people to at least consider some sort of program to help manage that substance use disorder and maybe help the student move away from opiate use.”