Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The Canadian province of Quebec will offer free naloxone, a drug used to counter the effects of opioid overdoses, in order to prevent an overdose crisis, officials said Wednesday.
The drug is currently available to first responders and ambulance drivers, but the new initiative will make it available anybody in the general public who feels they might need it, reported the Montreal Gazette. The drug will be made available free of charge through pharmacies.
"Making it available free is the answer for today, but the real answer to this growing situation is about prevention," said Quebec Health Minister Gaétan Barrette. "We are not in a crisis situation today. Each and every overdose is a sad situation that we wish we could prevent. It's impossible to prevent everything, but there are measures to be taken and will be taken in order to limit this as much as possible."
Quebec officials said they want to prevent what they are seeing in British Columbia, where more than four people per day are dying of drug overdoses, many of them connected to fentanyl, a powerful opioid, reported the CBC.
People who work with drug addicts said the initiative to offer free naloxone is a step in the right direction towards helping those with opioid addiction but that more needs to be done.
"What we need to face the opioid crisis is to have an increase of the hours of the safe injection sites and give community organizations the possibility to distribute naloxone," said Louis Letellier de St-Just, the president of Cactus Montreal, a community group involved in preventing blood-borne and sexually transmitted infections, which are often transmitted through intravenous drug use.
Nationwide, Canada has seen an approximately 20 percent spike in hospitalizations from opioid overdoses this year, according to a report released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information.
"No area of Canada is necessarily safe from this crisis," Dr. Theresa Tam told reporters.