Overdose? Save a Life – Call 911

Written by admin, August 28, 2012

August 28, 2012 – Peterborough community leaders gathered today to raise awareness of overdose deaths and injuries – a danger that is expected to increase.  International Overdose Awareness Day is officially this Friday, August 31.

Often before a long weekend such as the one coming, emergency and health professionals are reminding the public to drive safely. Today, they gathered to recognize that the number of deaths caused by overdoses are comparable to traffic fatalities.

Peterborough City and County loses an average of 17 lives each year due to overdoses on alcohol and other drugs. Opioids such as Fentanyl, Oxycontin, methadone, morphine, heroin etc. were involved in 40% of fatal overdoses and 47% involved alcohol.

Bob English, Chief of Peterborough Paramedics noted that “Non-fatal overdoses are also a burden on individual health and the health care system. In 2011, Peterborough EMS transported 208 patients whose primary problem was recorded as an overdose, and 32 patients whose primary problem was charted as a toxicological emergency.”

Even these numbers likely underestimate the scope of the overdose problem as many do not call for emergency help during an overdose incident for fear of arrest. Chief Murray Rodd hopes to change this and encourage people to call 911 during an overdose incident. Chief Rodd stated: “If we have one take-home message for Overdose Awareness Day, it would be – call 911. We are clear as a police service that our primary concern in an overdose emergency is the safety and security of individuals involved. To encourage the calling of 911, our officers are being advised that our focus will be on saving lives – not on laying drug charges.”

Citizens and agencies involved with the Peterborough Drug Strategy, including PARN-Your Community AIDS Resource Network, the VON 360 Clinic, Peterborough Public Health, local police, and EMS intend to roll out overdose awareness & prevention training in Peterborough City & County later this year.

Medical Officer of Health Rosana Salvaterra recognized the need for this harm reduction measure:
“Recent changes in the availability of OxyContin have made us concerned that people are at increased risk of overdose, as they switch to drugs of uncertain potency such as Fentanyl or heroin. Much research affirms that overdose prevention saves lives. We’re committed to rolling out this important public health service here.”

Overdose prevention efforts will include information and training sessions on how to avoid an overdose and also on how to respond to an overdose emergency. This includes recognizing an overdose, calling 911, the rescue position and basic CPR that can sustain a life until the ambulance arrives.

It is hoped that Naloxone provision will be included as part of local overdose prevention efforts in the future. Naloxone can be injected into someone overdosing on opioids to temporarily revive and restore breathing. Similar to an epi-pen, Naloxone can buy time until medical help arrives. Larger cities such as Toronto and Ottawa already distribute Naloxone. Agency partners in Peterborough intend to learn from their experiences and are exploring similar implementation here.

More information on overdose awareness and prevention in Peterborough City and County can be found on the Peterborough Drug Strategy’s website at www.drugstrategy.ca.


For more information contact:

Suzanne Galloway
Health Promoter, Substance Misuse Prevention Program
Peterborough Public Health
sgalloway@peterboroughpublichealth.ca  Ph: 705.743.1000 Ext. 223  Fax: 705.743.2897