To counteract the increasing number of cases of opioid intoxication, more and more Canadian provinces are providing access through pharmacies to naloxone, a drug administered to reverse the effects of an overdose.
After Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, it’s Quebec’s turn to offer naloxone free of charge through its pharmacies. The Quebec government made the announcement on September 13.
The following day, the Canadian Press reported that at least 2,816 Canadians had died in connection with the use of opioids since the beginning of the year. The western provinces are the most affected at the moment. British Columbia had 978 deaths related to an overdose of illicit drugs and Alberta had 586.
However, the eastern provinces are not immune to the crisis. In Ontario, there were nearly 2,000 emergency room visits related to opioid intoxication during April, May and June of this year. This is an increase of 76% compared to the same period last year.
Opioids include, among others, fentanyl, morphine and oxycodone. These drugs were originally prescribed to relieve the acute pain associated with cancer.
In recent years, opioids have also been used for other reasons, particularly for chronic non-cancerous pain, which has led to an increase in the number of prescriptions filled in pharmacies for this category of drug.