Free naloxone kits are available at the Houston Health Centre to eligible persons.

Free naloxone kit at Houston Health Centre

Free naloxone kits are available at the Houston Health Centre to eligible persons who identify themselves as using substances.

“Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of opioids such as, heroin, methadone, fentanyl, and morphine,” said Andrea Palmer, public affairs and media relations for Northern Health.

Eligible people are those that identify as using substances that contain opioids, this includes opioids prescribed or not prescribed, and to individuals that are close family or friends of someone who uses substances and are at risk of witnessing an overdose.

Anyone in Houston wishing to receive a naloxone kit can ask the receptionist at the Houston Health Centre to see a public health nurse, who will then ask a series of questions to determine eligibility.

“Go into the Houston Health Centre and ask to speak with the public health nurse who will have a conversation with you identify criteria for appropriate distribution of the naloxone kit,” said Margaret McDaniel, interm manager for the Houston Health Centre.

For those that are not eligible you can purchase the naloxone kits at a local pharmacy. Currently the Houston Pharmasave does not have any kits in stock, but are available to purchase for approximately $55 each. You do not need a prescription to purchase a kit.

“The kits include gloves, needles, so there isn’t anything extra that needs to be purchased,” Shannan Currier, pharmacist at the Houston Pharmasave.

“The cost of a kit to purchase is anywhere between $30 to $50 at the local pharmacy for those who do not fit the free criteria there is a comprehensive list of pharmacies that are dispensing kits and providing training,” said Palmer.

The Houston Pharmasave does offer training on site about how to respond to an opioid overdose and how to use the naloxone kits.

Northern Health emphasizes safe drug use for those that identify as needing a kit. Safe drug use practices include making sure you are in the company of others, have cell service or a way to call for help, breathe for people even if you do not have a naloxone kit—providing breathes until help arrives can save a life, help reduce stigma and judgment by changing the way substance abuse is talked about.

“Northern Health has also initiated an anti-stigma campaign that focuses on educating respectful language and stigma regarding people who use substances,” said Palmer.

According to the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign, stigma is define as “an attribute or quality which ‘significantly discredits’ an individual in the eyes of others.”

“The stigma around people who use drugs can have negative consequences for users that seek help,” said Palmer.

The anti-stigma campaign also states two different types of stigma, enacted stigma and self-stigma.

Enacted stigma is discrimination where people who use drugs may experience negative behaviour towards them. “Such as difficult obtaining employment, reduced access to housing, poor support for treatment,” said AJ Gray, author of Stigma in psychiatry, published in Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Enacted stigma is easier to reduce in a professional setting compared to self-stigma.

According to the anti-stigma campaign, subtle negative thoughts and feelings including shame, negative self-evaluative thoughts, and fear are characteristics of self-stigma.

“When people who use drugs adopt these terms for themselves they are likely to experience self-stigma and ‘accept’ that they cannot recover,” writes the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign.

Northern Health states that it has been shown in research that those who access treatment frequently experience stigma from healthcare workers and that healthcare workers generally have a negative attitude towards people who use drugs.

“These negative attitudes can lead to poor patient care and, in turn, decreased the use of appropriate healthcare services,” writes the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign.

“Studies show that only about 14.6 per cent of those needing specialty treatment for illegal drug use receive treatment,” quotes the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign from The Role of Physician and Nurse Attitudes in the Health Care of Injecting Drug Users.

The January 31, 2017 report on illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. from the B.C. Coroners Service states, “It is estimated that around the world, 350,000 people die each year due to illegal drug use, and local reports demonstrate that the opioid crisis is at an all-time high, with 922 deaths recorded in British Columbia in 2016 alone.”

Northern Health encourages four recommendations for change when address the stigma regarding people who use drugs.

1. Use “people-first language” which means refer to the person before describing his or her behaviour or condition. Example includes “a person with a cocaine disorder” rather than a “cocaine user” or an “addict”.

2. Use language that reflects the medical nature of substance use disorders and treatment. This means understanding that there are a multitude of factors that contribute to drug addiction. Using terms such as “substance use disorder” and “addictive disease” brings the attention back to the medical aspect of the disease rather than use of language like “abusers” or “junkies” which focus shifts towards the beliefs that addiction is a “failure of morals or personality”.

3. Use language that promotes recovery.

4. Avoid slang and idioms such as “dope fiend” and “crack head” which reinforces self-stigma attachment. “Recovery-orientated language refers to using language that conveys hope, optimism and supports recovery, and should be the standard for all healthcare professionals working with patients with addiction issues,” states the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign.

For more information on how the Northern Health anti-stigma campaign, visit http://towardtheheart.com/assets/naloxone/respectful-language-and-stigma-final_244.pdf.

“We encourage people that meet that criteria to go to the Houston Health Centre and speak to a public health nurse in respect to their individual situation. We would rather have people protected and supported than not,” said McDaniel.