How to Protect Yourself and Others in the Face of a Growing Opioid Crisis

Although data for 2017 are still incomplete, Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that as many as 4,000 or more Canadians may have died due to an opioid-related overdose in 2017. This number is based on the latest provincial and territorial statistics.

The opioid crisis is a complex public health issue that’s affecting people from all backgrounds, age groups, income levels and walks of life. Your friend, family member, co-worker or neighbour may be struggling with a substance use disorder or addiction without your knowledge.

That’s why we all need to know the risks of drug use, to protect ourselves, our loved ones and others in our community.

Know the risks of street drugs
One of the biggest risks of taking illegal drugs is the increasing number of street drugs that are tainted with fentanyl and other toxic substances.

It isn’t just injection drugs that could be dangerous. All kinds of street drugs—from heroin to cocaine to methamphetamines—have been found to be tainted.

You can’t see, smell or taste fentanyl, and the equivalent of a few grains of salt of these highly toxic substances can kill you.

Learn what to do in the case of a drug overdose
You can reduce the risk of an opioid-related overdose or death by:

• knowing the signs of an overdose, including: loss of consciousness, bluish lips and fingernails, difficulty breathing;

• calling for emergency assistance right away if you suspect an overdose; and

carrying and knowing how to administer naloxone, especially if you or your loved ones use drugs.

You can reduce the risk of an overdose for yourself or someone else who uses drugs by following these tips:

• never consume drugs alone;

• go to a supervised consumption site or overdose prevention site if your community has one;

• consume a smaller dose; and

• Know where to access naloxone, carry it with you and keep it close by. Know how to administer it effectively.

Naloxone is a drug that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. Naloxone kits are available without a prescription at many pharmacies, certain walk-in clinics, community health units and some local non-governmental organizations. Your pharmacist can provide guidance on the appropriate and safe use and administration of naloxone.

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