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Recent overdoses in Fredericton show opioid abuse is an ever-shifting problem
Opioid-related overdoses have been on the rise across the country, but it was still a shock when Fredericton police responded to two non-fatal overdoses last week.
“In 48 hours, to have two opioid overdoses is concerning,” said Fredericton police Chief Leanne Fitch.
Fredericton police issued a public advisory regarding opioid use after the seemingly unrelated cases last week.
“Both were middle-aged men, and they were in different areas of the city,” Fitch said. “One happened on (Jan.) 29th and one happened on (Jan.) 31.”
The issue of opioid overdoses came into the national spotlight in 2016, when the province of British Columbia issued a public health emergency.
Last year, New Brunswick started an opioid prescribing task force to tackle the issue head on, and has since taken a closer look at opioid-related overdoses and deaths.
Though the age demographic of those most affected by opioid-related overdoses is relatively similar to years passed, the chief medical officer for the province says that most of the incidences now are happening in conjunction with other drugs, and are affecting more women than men.
“We're still seeing it in the 30-to-39-year-old age group, but we're seeing a flip,” said Jennifer Russell. “It used to be predominantly males, now we're seeing it predominantly in females.”
According to a provincial report, in the first half of 2018, it was almost a 50 per cent divide between genders across related deaths and overdoses.
But Chris Hood, the president of the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick, doesn't think the numbers tell the whole tale of opioid abuse in the province.
“I think with the advent of home Narcan use and the ability of patients to go out and get Narcan at their local pharmacies were masking the number of overdoses that exist,” Hood said.
Narcan is a brand name for the drug Naloxone, which blocks the effects of opioids.
AIDS New Brunswick helps distribute Naloxone kits, thanks to private and public grants.
“We've distributed about 250 kits and we've started cycling new kits now, where people have been coming back and disclosing to us that they've used the kits on someone who has experienced an overdose, and they're looking for a replacement kit,” said Matthew Smith, the executive director of AIDS New Brunswick.
While the province's figures for 2018 are still being finalized, many questions remain about how opioids are used and abused.
One thing is for sure: perceptions about who is abusing opiates are changing.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Jessica Ng.