FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government is introducing a naloxone kit program.

“We recognize that there is a growing epidemic of opioid use in Canada,” said Health Minister Benoit Bourque. “Your government knows that the availability and delivery of health services have a significant impact on the quality of life of the people of our province. Today, we are taking steps to address opioid use and overdose by making naloxone available to vulnerable populations.”

The Department of Health will invest $150,000 for the purchase of about 2,500 kits to be distributed to target populations through needle exchange programs with AIDS New Brunswick, SIDA/AIDS Moncton and AIDS Saint John as well as with withdrawal management services operated through both regional health authorities.

“Lethal opioids can show up unexpectedly in your drug of choice and this is an important investment that is meant to reduce the number of overdoses and deaths in New Brunswick,” said Dr. Jennifer Russell, acting chief medical officer of health.

Opioids are medications used to treat moderate to severe pain. Most opioids are only available by prescription. The type and dose prescribed may be different for each patient. There are many dangerous and unpredictable effects from prescription drug abuse, including addiction, overdose and death.

Naloxone is a safe drug that temporarily reverses overdoses caused by opioid drugs such as fentanyl or heroin. Kits will be provided free of charge. The kits will include naloxone, single-use syringes, a pair of latex gloves, alcohol swabs, a one-way rescue breathing barrier mask and a step-by-step instruction pamphlet.

“This is tremendously important,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of AIDS New Brunswick. “We have seen the opioid overdose crisis move its way across Canada and start impacting our community. Our needle exchange in Fredericton alone has more than 300 people who access it annually. The government supporting the rollout of naloxone will save many, many lives.”

Twenty-five deaths due to any type of drug (opioids and non-opioids) occurred between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2017. Of these, 17 were related to opioids.

This initiative is part of the provincial government’s response to opioid misuse and overdoses.

A provincial task group, composed of representatives from various government departments, the regional health authorities, Ambulance New Brunswick, the RCMP, and indigenous and community groups, recently completed its work on five key areas: surveillance; resources and education; treatment interventions, awareness and assessment; personal protective equipment for first responders and first receivers; and public communications.

Additional information on opioids and its effects is available online.