The ongoing opioid epidemic is an issue that touches every corner of Canada and affects every demographic, but men are particularly at risk. In a recent four-year span, opioid-related hospitalization in Canada rose by 24 percent among men, while only 10 percent among women. In 2018 alone, three out of four accidental opioid-related deaths occurred among males. 

Greater strength, greater risk 

Opioid prescriptions have increased and shifted towards more potent formulations like fentanyl, even putting some people with a legitimate need for the drug in danger.

In 2018 alone, three out of four accidental opioid-related deaths occurred among males.

“Some people can end up in situations of opioid dependence and eventual overdose leading to death through physicians prescribing opioids for chronic pain,” says Dr. David Marsh, Chief Medical Director of the Canadian Addiction Treatment Centres. “Interestingly, a lot of chronic pain arises from work-related injuries in industries like construction, forestry, and mining where the majority of the workforce are men.”

A small act can make a big difference

Solving the opioid epidemic is going to be a long and complicated process, but there is one thing that every Canadian can do today to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe: carry a naloxone kit and learn how to use it. Naloxone is a life-saving drug that temporarily reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. “I personally think that basically everyone should be carrying a naloxone kit around with them,” says Dr. Marsh. “You never know when you might find someone in a mall or a bathroom whose life could be saved.”

Naloxone is available in both injectable and nasal spray forms, with availability varying by province. In Ontario and Quebec, and for First Nations clients of the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program and clients of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), the nasal spray form, known as NARCAN Nasal Spray, is freely available at any pharmacy and is designed for use by the general public. “The nasal form is easier for people without medical experience to use,” says Dr. Marsh. “You just stick it in the nose and spray. It’s very hard to get wrong.”

If you use opioids for any reason, know someone who does, or simply want to be prepared for a worst-case scenario, talk to your pharmacist about obtaining a NARCAN Nasal Spray kit. Who knows whose life you might save?

This article was made possible with support from Adapt Pharma Canada Ltd.