Saskatchewan paramedics administer nearly 500% more naloxone doses since 2019

The last few years have taken a big toll on emergency services workers.

For paramedics, that toll shows no signs of slowing down. They’ve seen an almost 500-per cent increase in the number of naloxone doses administered since 2019.

“We expected it but that number is quite alarming for us and it just goes to show the stresses we are seeing on the streets for our paramedics,” said Troy Davies, director of public affairs for Medavie Health Services West.

In 2021, paramedics administered 609 doses of the opioid overdose reversal drug compared to just 132 in 2019 and 370 in 2020. Those are doses only given by paramedics and doesn’t include other first responders.

Read more: St. John Ambulance Saskatchewan offering training program to combat overdose crisis

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Davies says overdose calls happen all across Saskatoon and that there are no hot spots in the city.

“We are seeing more potent drugs out there and it is requiring more doses,” Davies said. “We did have one patient who took up to eight doses which is something we’ve never seen and is a whole different problem.”

Paramedics are now able to expand their help. Ambulances are stocked with naloxone kits that can be handed out to bystanders when responding to overdose calls.

At Prairie Harm Reduction, staff have also seen a huge increase in the demand for naloxone.

“We distributed over 7000 naloxone kits last fiscal year and we know that with the increase of fentanyl in our community and across the province, we are seeing more overdose deaths everywhere,” PHR executive director Kayla DeMong said.

Read more: ‘I can make a difference’: Alberta grocery chain staff train to save overdose victims

DeMong is calling on the province to look at a comprehensive drug strategy and invest more in substance use disorders.

“Last year we had the highest amount on our services of all of our programs,” DeMong said. “Our safe consumption site supported 577 individuals.”

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PHRs drop-in centre also serves about 450 to 500 people every day.

Despite the preventative measures PHR and first responders are taking, Davies doesn’t expect naloxone-use numbers to go down anytime soon.

“As we’ve seen in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, once you see those population numbers grow, you start to see these numbers grow as well,” Davies said.

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