LETHBRIDGE - With students across the country heading back to school, universities in Alberta are stocking up on naloxone kits in the wake of the opioid crisis.
Nearly 2,500 lives were claimed due to opioid-related incidents people in Canada in 2016, and hundreds more this year already.
Health Canada recently put out a warning about opioids for students during orientation week because the crisis is growing so quickly.
Naloxone is an antidote that can reverse the harmful effects of an opioid drugs, and save someone’s life.
Janice Driver, the Addiction and Wellness Coordinator at the University of Lethbridge, says they have taken pre-emptive, preventative measures to make sure students are safe this academic year.
Driver’s position is a new one, having only been instituted in the last year and a half, and she helps educate students on things associated with addiction, and harm reduction as well.
“We work closely with Arches Lethbridge, and we bring them in for community presentation sessions that are available to anyone. It’s voluntary, they can come have the training and can access their own naloxone kits that they can carry with them and use if they come across anyone who has the signs of overdose,” Driver said.
A number of kits are available on the campus.
Driver says they have one located in their health centre, security services have two within their department and then they have two security vehicles that each have a kit in them.
“Many people on campus have taken the training and have access to their own kit, and because it’s voluntary we don’t keep a record of who has kits. We have sixteen campus security staff that are trained, and eight health centre staff trained. I would say, depending on the day, there’s probably over 25 people on campus that have the proper training,” Driver continued to say.
Other campuses across the province are putting similar safeguards in place.
The University of Alberta purchased six naloxone nasal spray kits, MacEwan University has two naloxone kits with three people trained to administer them, and the University of Calgary allows anyone to carry and administer naloxone if they wish to.
The federal education department has even recommended that students carry naloxone kits in case of an overdose caused by opioid drugs.
Driver says that she hasn’t received any reports of anyone having to administer a kit at this point.
When it comes to education, and bringing awareness to the issue, Driver says they’ve been on top of this for a while.
“Probably about a year and a half ago we had Arches come in and set up an information booth, and that’s when we started having them do presentations and training. In the beginning, the up take on those wasn’t great but as time has moved on and it’s become more visible in the media there has been a much bigger interest from the student body and from staff,” said Driver.
Driver closed by saying that addiction doesn’t discriminate, and it can happen to anyone.
“The more information, and the more people aware of the problem and how to manage it, is important and that’s why we encourage students to take the training either at the university or outside of campus,” Driver concluded.
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