February 16, 2016
BCCDC Reveals Overdose Plan
Strategy gives more tools
to first responders in the trenches
BCCDC/Voice file photo
BC Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership (DOAP), chaired by the BC
Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC), has released an opioid overdose
response strategy to address the issue of opioid overdose deaths in
“I thank the BC
Drug Overdose and Alert Partnership for their work on this
strategy,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “We take the issue of
drug overdoses very seriously, and these recommendations show B.C.
is on the right track. The province recently announced that fire
fighters and community-based paramedics can now carry and administer
naloxone for patients experiencing opioid drug overdoses. We and our
partners in the health system have a great deal of other work
currently underway to address the partnership’s recommendations.”
In 2015, there were 465 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths, a 27%
increase from the 366 deaths in 2014. The majority of these overdose
deaths were due to opioids like heroin, morphine, oxycodone and
fentanyl that may have been used in combination with other drugs or
alcohol. The annual mortality rate due to illicit drug overdose in
BC has increased by 50% between 2010 and 2015.
A key recommendation contained in the proposed provincial response
strategy is to increase access to naloxone. Naloxone is an antidote
to an overdose from opioids. It is a safe medication that quickly
reverses the effects of opioids on the body by restoring breathing
within 2-5 minutes.
“The DOAP committee has identified the need for accessible naloxone
in the community setting,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction
epidemiologist at BCCDC. “This, along with the other
recommendations, will be integral in reducing the harms from an
opioid overdose and preventing overdose deaths.”
The strategy contains other recommendations for actions that various
municipal, provincial and national agencies can take to expand
education and prevention efforts in order to address BC’s overdose
The recommendations include:
• Changes in
policy to make naloxone a non-prescription medication, which can
increase access for the public, family and friends of people at
risk of an overdose and non-medical staff in community settings.
• Changes in practice to increase access to naloxone can mean
expanded availability in places like community health centres,
acute care settings and other facilities where overdoses can
• Improved overdose prevention education and training to
increase awareness, recognition and response strategies.
• Increasing physician awareness of best practices for opioid
prescribing and encouraging physicians to review patients’
medical and medication histories before prescribing opioids for
• Enhanced surveillance and data sharing to improve public
health and safety planning to reduce harms.
more accessible, and improving best practices around prescribing
opioids can mean the difference between life and death," says Leslie
McBain, a founding member of Mothers United and Mandated to Saving
the Lives of Drug Users (mumsDU), a coalition of Canadian mothers
who have lost sons and daughters to overdose and other drug related
harms. "As a parent who has lost our only child to an accidental
overdose, I agree with these recommendations, and I know these
actions will help prevent more tragic deaths from occurring."
The full list of recommendations is available here.
The DOAP is a multi-sectoral committee that works to prevent and
reduce the harms associated with consuming substances. Committee
members include: BCCDC, Centre for Addictions Research of BC, BC
Coroners Service, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDs, Ministry of
Health, regional health authorities, Provincial Toxicology Centre,
BC Drug and Poison Information Centre, BC Emergency Health Services,
Health Canada Drug Analysis Service Laboratory, Vancouver Police
Department and other enforcement agencies, and people who use drugs.
Learn more at
The BC Centre for Disease Control, an agency of the Provincial
Health Services Authority, provides provincial and national
leadership in public health through surveillance, detection,
treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides
both direct diagnostic and treatment services for people with
diseases of public health importance and analytical and policy
support to all levels of government and health authorities.
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