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Overdose Surveillance & Prevention

BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership (DOAP)

The mission of the BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership Committee is to prevent and reduce the harms associated with consuming substances. They identify and provide timely information about events related to substance use such as an increase in overdoses, adverse reactions to contaminated products, and other emerging issues.

The committee members include: BCCDC, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, BC Coroners Service, Centre for Excellence HIV/AIDs, Ministry of Health, BC’s Regional Health Authorities, Provincial Toxicology Centre, BC DPIC, BC Ambulance, Health Canada DPAS Laboratory, People who use drugs, Vancouver Police Department (VPD), and the RCMP.

The committee meets four times a year where members share the data they have collected and analyzed from their respective agencies. People discuss their concerns and offer their expertise to come up with ideas and solutions.

Overdose Events in British Columbia

Rates of Alcohol & Illicit Drug Overdose Hospitalizations

In a recent bulletin, the Center of Addictions Research of BC (CARBC) examined the overdoses in BC based on a number of different data sources to create an up-to-date picture of trends in overdose events. They came to the following conclusions:

  • There is evidence of increasing trends of both alcohol and illicit drug overdose events in BC.
  • InSite reported 778 non-fatal illicit drug-related overdose events and no deaths for the period 2004-2010.
  • Alcohol is a major substance of concern, both on its own and in combination with other drugs, and more emphasis on the risks surrounding its consumption is required.
  • Strategies to prevent overdose as well as treat and reduce harms are recommended including community information networks, supervised drug consumption sites, access to harm reduction education, wider availability of naloxone (an opiate antagonist), and efforts to make sure fear of police involvement does not impede seeking help.


The BC THN Stakeholder Evaluation Study

The BCCDC Harm Reduction team is interviewing stakeholders in the BC THN program. This is what parents of people who use opioids had to say about the program:

“I would certainly want to promote it to other parents.”

“Well, of course my primary concern is that the child will die using opioids and so if there is a way that something … could save her… it would be beneficial.”

“I think if people had it available to them it would be safer… I don’t know if that word ‘safe’ is the right word but it would reduce the possibility of death.”

 “They [paramedics] administered Narcan a few times and so I just think it would have been nice to have that because I was trying to do CPR when it would have been good to have Narcan to save a life because eventually he did die from an overdose.”

What is Naloxone?

Naloxone is an antidote to an opioid overdose. An overdose of opioid drugs such as morphine, heroin, methadone, or OxyContin® can cause a person’s breathing to slow or stop. Naloxone is an injectable medication that can reverse this so the person can breathe normally and regain consciousness.

Can naloxone cause harm or be abused?

Naloxone is a very safe drug. It only works to block the effects of opioids in the brain and cannot get a person high. For individuals who are dependent on opioids it may cause them to go into withdrawal. This effect is minimized by the small doses of naloxone in the community kits. Naloxone does not encourage opioid use. It has no effect on someone who has no opioids in their system.

Naloxone has been approved for use in Canadafor over 40 years and is on the World Health Organization List of Essential Medicines. 

Does someone need to be a medical professional to recognize opioid overdose and administer naloxone properly to save a life?

Research and experience show, if people are given basic training they are able to recognize an overdose and administer naloxone to save someone’s life just as well as a medical professional.

Need more answers to some common questions about the BC THN program? Check out our FAQ.