Naloxone kits are just the first step in dealing with drug overdoses (Image Credit: BC government)

Naloxone kits are just the first step in dealing with drug overdoses (Image Credit: BC government)

Kelowna overdose call numbers still high

Paramedics are responding to a high number of overdose calls.

Naloxone kits have been well distributed among Kelowna’s drug using population, but it’s still important to call to 911 in the case of an overdose, say BC paramedics.

“Often we see naloxone kits are being used but they’re just one small part of the care that these people need,” said Don Hunt, a BC Ambulance Service unit chief in Kelowna.

Naloxone can be relatively short-acting compared to the drug they’ve taken and once it wears off, he said, there’s a good chance the risk of an overdose remains.

“This is especially the case with the stronger drugs on the street,” Hunt said.

These drugs, like fentanyl and carfentanil, he said, have changed everything but the service paramedics are there to provide.

“There’s a thought that people are afraid to call us because they’re scared they’re going to get in trouble,” said Hunt.

“We’re not the police, we’re there to help people. If someone thinks they are having an overdose, please call.”

The number of overdoses rose dramatically in November 2016 and have yet to really subside.

For Kelowna there were 94 overdose calls in November, 51 in December, 87 in January and 82 in February.

These numbers account for everything from someone who has taken too much medication to someone who has taken an illicit drug. The latter is likely cause for the spike in calls.

Since the volume of overdoses have increased, so too has the demand on resources.

In Kelowna, BC Ambulance Services put an extra unit on the street to deal with the crisis.

The volume of calls has also challenged paramedics personally, though Hunt said they’re handling it well despite the fact its so different from case to case.

One thing he’s noticed is that the overdoses aren’t affecting one specific population.

“We’re going to calls for people from all walks of life in all parts of town,” he said.

“There’s an increase in the number of young people overdosing and there’s also an increase among older people — it’s across the board.”