By Maggie Macintosh
A dozen more Ryerson University community members were trained in administering naloxone this week thanks to the student-run Overdose Prevention Training Program (OPTP).
Naloxone is an antidote to opioids. The synthetic drug can be used to halt an overdose on opioids such as heroin or prescription pain medications.
Four Ryerson students—Andrew Hight, Sherwin Lau, Laura Londono and Shanzeh Faisal—started OPTP this year because they saw a gap in overdose prevention training at Ryerson. They plan to host a number of free workshops throughout the academic year, teaching students when and how to use naloxone kits.
The group ran their first workshop, an hour-long session featuring an informative talk about opioids from a harm reduction worker and naloxone kit training from a pharmacist in the Student Campus Centre on Oct. 24.
“There was a lot of enthusiasm for it,” said Londono, an OPTP co-founder and arts and contemporary studies student at Ryerson, adding she was pleased with the turnout.
In the midst of a national opioid crisis, it’s important students learn how to administer naloxone since there’s some risk students who experiment with drugs—whether they take opioids knowingly or other drugs laced with them—could overdose, she said.
So far this year Toronto Paramedic Service has responded to 2,494 suspected opioid overdoses, 110 of which have been fatal.
There were 308 opioid overdose deaths in the city in total in 2017, a 65 per cent increase from 2016 and an 125 per cent increase from the same sum in 2015, according to Public Health Ontario.
“We strategically planned the training to take place one week before Halloween parties,” said Lau, an OPTP co-founder and politics and governance student at Ryerson. Lau said he hopes their training sessions will work towards eliminating the stigma surrounding drug users.
Toronto-based pharmacist Anna Fu talked about how to spot an opioid overdose and showed participants how to administer both injectable and nasal naloxone. Attendees then practiced using a syringe, clementines and water as a substitute for the liquid drug.
Renée Bazil, a second-year social work student who attended the event, said she now feels confident using a naloxone kit to treat someone experiencing an opioid overdose.
Bazil said she ordered a naloxone kit and plans to keep it on her at all times, “just in case.”
“I think it’s an important thing to have, in addition to CPR, because drug prevention isn’t something you’re educated on [in class]. This isn’t something you’re going to learn anywhere else, unless you’re in the medical field,” she said.
The date for OPTP’s next free session has yet to be announced, but the Ryerson chapter of Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy (CSSDP) has announced they will also be hosting free naloxone kit training sessions. CSSDP is running free naloxone training sessions on campus Nov. 26 and Nov. 27.
Students can pick up a free naloxone kit at a pharmacy in Toronto or The Works at 277 Victoria St.