Skip to main content
Home » Advocacy » Publicly Available Opioid Overdose Kits Could Save Young Lives
Student Health and Wellness

Publicly Available Opioid Overdose Kits Could Save Young Lives


Fardous Hosseiny

Interim National Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Mental Health Association

Owen Charters

CEO, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada

“Between 2013 and 2017, hospitalizations due to opioid poisoning increased by 62% among teens and young adults aged 15 to 24,” says Fardous Hosseiny, Interim National Chief Executive Officer at the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). “In Alberta, the rates of hospitalization more than doubled for these young people. In fact, nationwide, this group is the fastest growing when it comes to hospitalizations due to opioids.”

Same behaviour, worse consequences

In today’s environment of easy opioid availability and tapering, youthful experimentation with drugs has become more dangerous than ever. “Opioids can be found anywhere,” says Hosseiny. “One of the reasons we are experiencing an opioid epidemic is because pain medications like oxycodone, hydromorphone, hydrocodone, and morphine are overprescribed but the degree to which they are addictive has been downplayed.” But legally prescribed drugs are not the only issue. “At the same time, while opioids opioids like heroin have long been available on the street, we are unfortunately seeing more incidents of overdose because the supply of opioids is often laced with fentanyl and related substances,” Hosseiny adds.

Battling this crisis, and preventing overdose hospitalizations and deaths, will require systemic change and education. Canada needs to broaden education about the risks of opioids, make opioids less readily available, and destigmatize seeking help for those who are already using them. Immediately, however, the single most powerful tool we have to save lives in the face of this epidemic is naloxone, a drug that counteracts the effect of an ongoing opioid overdose.

Naloxone was originally developed for use by first responders and is now also available as NARCAN Nasal Spray to members of the public. Publicly available naloxone kits are easy to administer and should be embedded within our communities, because every moment matters when responding to an opioid overdose.

Battling this crisis, and preventing overdose hospitalizations and deaths, will require systemic change and education.

Making help available for at-risk youth

In 700 communities across the country, Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada act as central hubs of youth resources and activity. “Our clubs are not just after-school recreation programs for young kids,” says Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada CEO Owen Charters. “We have Clubs that also support crisis intervention and harm reduction. Our goal is to provide youth in our communities with the resources and services they need to succeed.”

As local clubs began seeing the opioid crisis increasingly coming to their doorstep, an initiative was begun to make naloxone kits and training available to every club nationwide. “Our approach to drug involvement is many-pronged,” says Charters. “NARCAN is the last line of defense, but it’s clearly one that’s needed. No matter how many lines of defense you have, you may eventually need all of them.”

Similarly, at the college and university level, CMHA has developed the ‘Carry It Toolkit.’ “Everyone should be carrying a naloxone kit and know how and when to use it,” says Hosseiny. “You never know when you’re going to need it. The most dangerous thing you can do in an overdose situation is do nothing.”

With the risk to Canada’s youth and young adults continuing to grow year by year, these initiatives are not only laudable but necessary. Broader societal efforts to battle the opioid epidemic are underway — but change on that scale happens slowly. In the meantime, do you know where the nearest naloxone kit is? Whether you are a youth, young adult, adult, or senior, it should be within arm’s reach. Visit your local pharmacy or harm reduction unit to pick up naloxone today.

This article was made possible with support from Adapt Pharma Canada Ltd. 

Next article