By Emily Stonehouse
The concept of overdoses – particularly in a rural community – is often something that is pushed under the rug. Yet, while it may seem foreign to some, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) continues to flag overdose alerts for the county, with the most recent being at the beginning of 2023.
“The recent increase in overdoses is troubling, so we’re issuing the alert to inform the community to take precautions,” said Leslie McLaughlin, the Substances and Harm Reduction Coordinator with the HKPR District Health Unit.
In an attempt to counteract the spike in overdoses, the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce has started offering free naloxone and anti-stigma training. “This type of training is needed everywhere and for everyone,” said Kirstey Dams, community manager of the Chamber. “As a community, we need to come together and give everyone the tools to recognize and overdose and know how to deal with it.”
Naloxone is a type of drug that once administered, temporarily counteracts the effects of an opioid overdose. Opioids such as fentanyl, morphine, codeine, and heroin (often taken for severe pain) affect specific receptors in the brain. When naloxone is administered, it removes the opioids off the brain receptors, and binds them together instead. The effects of naloxone only last 20-90 minutes though, so it is important to contact 911 for additional support.
The Chamber has partnered with the John Howard Society of Kawartha Lakes and Haliburton to present this formal training. The 2-hour session includes details about what an overdose can look like, how a naloxone kit can help, and educates attendees about the truth of substance use. “There are many myths or untruths about substance use that we see in the media, and this training does an excellent job of dispelling those,” said Dams. Each participant leaves the training with their own naloxone kit, and the knowledge for how to use it if necessary.
The first training was held on Jan. 16 at the Chamber offices. It was well attended, and Dams would like to continue offering sessions on a bi-monthly basis around the county, with the next training session being held in March at the Minden Library.
Dams hopes that by offering consistent training around the community, the risks of overdose will diminish for the population. “Seeing and talking about harm reduction supplies and naloxone overdose kits makes them much less intimidating and helps to bridge the gap that often exists between substance users and those who do not use substances,” she told the Echo.
Dams encourages everyone to take this training, as the reality of overdoses is that they can impact anyone, at any time. “It is not always the vulnerable population we see portrayed in movies,” said Dams. “This is why we appeal to employers and business owners to take this training, as pillars of the community and individuals with influence, it is a great place to stop the stigma.”
For more information on the training, follow the Chamber on Facebook and Instagram. If you or someone you know is using drugs that could result in an overdose, please consider the following points presented by the HKPR:
Test a small amount of drug before you use.
Never use alone. If you are alone, call the National Overdose Response Service (NORS) virtual safe consumption at 1-888-668-NORS (6677), or use a buddy system and call a friend.
Call 911 in the event of an overdose.
Avoid mixing your drugs.
Keep a naloxone kit on hand. You can get a naloxone kit at most pharmacies and needle exchange sites, as well as training presented by the Chamber.