The drug fentanyl, an opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine, is linked to 29 deaths in Manitoba in 2015.
The Chief Medical Examiner is looking into whether or not it was the cause of death in all those cases. But that’s double the number of cases as in 2014.
The province and WRHA are working to prevent those fatal overdoses with another drug.
It’s called naloxone. It counteracts the effects of opioids.
The person overdosing can’t self-administer it. Another person has to inject it, like an EpiPen.
The WRHA distributes free naloxone kits to opioid users through the Street Connections program on Main Street. They include two doses of naloxone, two syringes, a protective mask to give the person mouth-to-mouth and instructions on how to use the kit.
Dr. Joss Reimer of the WRHA says it should be given when you see signs of an overdose, like drowsiness and trouble breathing.
“It can save lives and it will save lives through this program,” she said.
Naloxone can also be prescribed by a doctor.
The province is spending more than $500-thousand on the kits and other measures as part of a new task force on fentanyl. The group made up of health and justice officials are trying to prevent a big spike in the drug that has been seen in other provinces.
It is also launching a new public awareness campaign called “Know Your Source”. Its goal is to educate users on the dangers of fentanyl. Drug users may not know they’re taking it because it can be used as a cutting agent with other drugs.