Some drug users 'yo-yoing' to avoid an overdose, paramedics say
As the death toll in B.C.'s overdose crisis continues to climb, paramedics are seeing some drug users "yo-yoing" in an attempt to protect themselves.
The term refers to the practice of following-up a hit of hard drugs with naloxone, an opioid antidote that's been made increasingly available to help save lives.
Paramedic Sophia Parkinson said some users are also mixing the naloxone, which the government is handing out in Narcan-branded kits, directly into heroin. Both methods create what she described as a "yo-yo effect."
Naloxone can temporarily reverse the effects of an overdose caused by drugs like heroin and fentanyl, but Parkinson warned the kits are also creating a false sense of security among some users.
She recounted one incident where a man overdosed and was given naloxone, then left alone in an alleyway. Fortunately, someone else saw him and called 911.
"This patient went down and wasn't breathing when we got there," Parkinson said. "These patients need to be followed-up with, taken to hospital to be monitored."
Paramedics were able to revive him and give him the immediate treatment he needed, she added.
With more than 600 fatal overdoses so far this year in B.C., first responders are seeing life-and-death situations far more often than they used to.
"Our crews are running ragged," Parkinson said.
On Friday, the Ministry of Health revealed this month saw a record number of overdose-related 911 calls made over a single week. From Nov. 17 to 23, paramedics responded to 494 suspected overdoses in the greater Vancouver area, including 271 in the Downtown Eastside and 81 in Surrey.
The provincial government also announced $5 million in emergency funding to help with the crisis, which will be paying for medical resupply stations in high-overdose areas and additional modes of transportation for paramedics, including bikes and ATVs.
The same day, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson made a plea for the federal government to expedite local health officials' applications for a pair of new supervised-injection sites in the city. Makeshift outdoor injection sites have recently been popping up in the Downtown Eastside to fill the gaps.
Robertson also said more treatment and detox services are urgently needed across the province.
"There is no single solution to this overdose crisis, as we need both immediate action to better manage this grave emergency, and long-term efforts to support treatment and prevention, address mental illness and homeless, and go after the drug supply," he said in a statement.
With a report from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber