A new treatment has entered the market to help first responders and civilians tackle the opioid crisis that British Columbia is currently facing. Between January and June, there were 780 overdose deaths in the province — making it one of the deadliest years since the crisis started.

To help combat the overdoses, first responders and health care services typically use a needle to inject a drug called naloxone into victims. It keeps a user’s heart pumping and sustains them long enough to get them to a hospital to receive emergency care from a doctor. However, a needle-free naloxone alternative, called Narcan nasal spray, is also available and used widely across Canada.

Unlike the needle version, the nasal spray requires no training and no assembly, according to Staff Sergeant Randy Fincham of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). This enables people to more immediately provide help for individuals experiencing an overdose. People should contact emergency medical services before administering the spray, Finchman says, because the individual still needs to go to the hospital to get treated by a doctor.

Safe administration

With the nasal formulation, “it’s a safer way to administer the drug,” says Fincham. “Instead of having a paramedic in a dark alley trying to inject the naloxone with a needle, they could more easily spray it into a user’s nose. It makes the process less complicated.”

Since the opioid crisis began, each year the VPD saw the number of deaths and overdoses from opioids double. “It was frightening to witness,” says Fincham. However, a year after Narcan was introduced, thousands of first responders have administered the opioid antidote to help treat overdose victims. Across Canada, more than 75 regional or municipal police services have access to it nationwide, including all 11 municipal police services in BC. In addition, the naloxone nasal spray is accessible in public health units, hospitals, schools, and recovery treatment centres across Canada.

The opioid epidemic is taking a human toll on communities and families. Front-line responders like the VPD are under increasing pressure to deal with the tragic situations. The crisis is hard to quell, according to Fincham. “But we are trying to reach out to people and make them aware of the resources available to them. Bystanders and those in the community can help stop this epidemic and administer the spray to users.”