News / London

Program aims to reduce drug overdoses in London

With the number of prescription opioid overdoses in London and Middlesex County tripling in a single year, the provincial government is putting money into a pilot project designed to directly impact those who are in the greatest danger.

Starting in June, London InterCommunity Health Centre, Regional HIV/AIDS Connection (RHAC), the Middlesex-London Health Unit and the London Area Network of Substance Users (LANSU) will roll out a program to distribute naloxone in the community.

Naloxone is a fast-acting drug designed to prevent overdoses, according to London InterCommunity Health Centre executive director Michelle Hurtubise.

“It blocks the opiates from biding to the receptors in the brain and body because what happens when there’s a drug overdose is the brain begins to shut down and you get brain damage and death,” she said.

Naloxone is injected into a thigh or arm muscle and it binds to the opiate involved and keeps it from binding to those receptors.

“People still need to go to the emergency room,” she said, “but it gives you that time to be able to get there.”

According to the Ontario coroner, 41 people in London and Middlesex County died of prescription opioid drug overdoses in 2012, more than triple the number in 2011 and double the provincial rate.

Through the initiative, people who are at risk will be trained to administer the drug.

Once trained, they’ll be given a pocket-sized overdose prevention kit, which includes two doses of naloxone.

Hurtubise said similar program in the United States have proven to be successful.

It’s not yet known how many people will require naloxone or what the cost to the province will be, she said.

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