Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe recommends opioid users have a supply of naloxone on hand. (Black Press Media files)

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe recommends opioid users have a supply of naloxone on hand. (Black Press Media files)

Naloxone prevented 26% of possible overdose deaths in B.C.: study

Researchers say had naloxone kits been distributed faster, more people’s lives could have been saved

As B.C. stands at the forefront of the opioid crisis across Canada, a new study suggests wide distribution of naloxone has helped to significantly curb the number of overdose deaths.

The study, published in The Lancet Public Health, looked at the BC Centre for Disease Control’s use of a new mathematical model to assess the effectiveness of various public health initiatives brought in by government since the crisis hit.

A total of 869 people died over an illicit drug overdose between January and October 2016, the study said. Another 226 lives were saved with the overdose-reversing drug naloxone during that time.

“Clearly, fast and wide distribution of naloxone is key,” BCCDC medical director Dr. Mark Gilbert said Wednesday.

“We hope other jurisdictions in Canada and the world will take note and use our experience to make their own harm reduction programs as effective as possible.”

WATCH: Demonstrators march in Vancouver for national day of action to end overdoses

One overdose death was prevented for every 10 take-home naloxone kits that were used, the study found. (Sometimes, as many as three doses of naloxone are needed to be effective.)

Earlier adoption and distribution of the kits appear to have had a significant impact as well.

Take-home naloxone kits were made available in B.C. in 2012, and weren’t free until last December. By then, the number of people killed by a drug overdose had surpassed the number of people killed in other major causes such as car crashes.

Now, there are more than 1,500 active distribution sites in B.C., including hospitals, correctional facilities, First Nations and pharmacies.

In February, the province said more than 17,000 overdoses have been reversed since 2012, with more than 75,000 kits being distributed.

READ MORE: Free naloxone kits now available at pharmacies across B.C.

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

Fentanyl remains the top illicit drug to cause death in B.C. The powerful opioid is found in 71 per cent of the drugs found in people who died of an overdose, according to the coroner’s service, followed by cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe has repeatedly said not to use drugs alone, and health authorities have launched public awareness campaigns with ads on bus shelters, in bars and restaurants.

Seven people die every two days in B.C., according to the latest government statistics. Last year was the worst in B.C.’s recorded history, with the crisis claiming 1,446 lives. That number is expected to surpass 4,000 lives, as Health Canada continues to sort data.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kalesnikoff Lumber will be providing materials for a 21-storey apartment building in Vancouver. Rendering: Henriquez Partners Architects
Kalesnikoff supplying mass timber for several major projects

The West Kootenay lumber company will be making the products at South Slocan facility

School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins will leave for Vernon’s school district at the end of the academic year. Photo: Submitted
School District 8 superintendent Christine Perkins resigns

Perkins is leaving to take over another district

The 300 block Victoria Street is the site of Nelson’s proposed transit exchange. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
LETTER: Nelson City Council, please reconsider transit hub plan

From seven property and business owners near the intersection of Victoria and Kootenay Streets

Selkirk College has received provincial funding to assist students. File photo
Selkirk College receives funding to assist students

Provincial funding is available to West Kootenay students

Burnaby MLA Raj Chouhan presides as Speaker of the B.C. legislature, which opened it spring session April 12 with a speech from the throne. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C. NDP promises more health care spending, business support in 2021 budget

John Horgan government to ‘carefully return to balanced budgets’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A lady wears a sticker given out after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count slows after last week’s peak

3,219 new cases since Friday, 18 additional deaths

North Cowichan councillor Tek Manhas did not violate the municipality’s code of conduct by posting a sexist meme on Facebook, council concludes. (File photo)
B.C. municipality to take no action against councillor who posted sexist meme

Tek Manhas’s meme doesn’t violate North Cowichan council’s code of conduct, municipality concludes

—Image: contributed
Indoor wine tastings still allowed in B.C., not considered a ‘social gathering’

“Tasting is really just part of the retail experience. The analogy I use is you wouldn’t buy a pair of pants without trying them on.”

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Part of the massive mess left behind in a Spallumcheen rental home owned by Wes Burden, whose tenants bolted from the property in the middle of the night. Burden is now facing a hefty cleaning and repair bill as a result. (Photo submitted)
Tenants disappear in the night leaving Okanagan home trashed with junk, feces

Spallumcheen rental rooms filled with junk, human and animal feces; landlord scared to rent again

Parliament Hill is viewed below a Canada flag in Gatineau, Quebec, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. A new poll suggests most Canadians are feeling more grateful for what they have in 2020 as a result of COVID-19 pandemic.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased slightly in 2019: report

2019 report shows Canada emitted about one million tonnes more of these gases than the previous year

Most Read