Excerpt from the OH&S Canada magazine (Sept. 2021)
To help save lives, the Canadian Red Cross has added training to identify and respond to opioid poisoning in all its first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) programs offered across the country.
The program modification represents the first of a series of Red Cross measures funded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) to help reduce opioid-related deaths by increasing Canadians’ access to response training and a life-saving medication that buys those affected enough time for medical attention.
“We have seen first-hand how the opioid crisis is devastating Canadian families and communities,” said Conrad Sauvé, president and CEO of the Canadian Red Cross, in a press release. “We are pleased to have the opportunity to bring the strength of the Red Cross to this very complex health and social issue.”
Between January 2016 and December 2020, there were more that 21,000 apparent opioid toxicity deaths in Canada – with 97 percent happening by accident.
The crisis has worsened since the onset of COVID – 19 with 6, 214 deaths recorded in 2020 alone.
Opioids are drugs with pain relieving properties that are used primarily to treat pain.
Opioids can also induce euphoria (feeling high), which gives them the potential to be used improperly.
Opioids can be prescribed medications:
- Medical Heroin
Opioids can also be produced or obtained illegally.
Opioids are intended to treat pain.
Doctors may also sometimes prescribe them for other conditions, such as:
- Acute (short-term) moderate to severe pain
- Chronic (long-term) pain
- Moderate to severe diarrhea
- Moderate to severe cough
If you have been prescribed an opioid medicine, it should:
- Only be taken as prescribed
- Never be used by someone for whom it was not prescribed
- Never be taken with alcohol or other medications (except as prescribed)
Keep your medication safe to help prevent problematic use by others by:
- Never sharing your medication with anyone else
- This is illegal and may also cause serious harm or death to the other person
- Keeping track of the number of pills remaining in a package
- Storing opioids in a safe and secure place, out of the reach of children and teenagers
Unused portions of opioid medicine should always be:
- Kept out of sight and reach of children and pets
- Stored in a safe place to prevent theft, problematic use, or accidental exposure
- Returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal if it is no longer needed or expired
- This prevents any possibility of illegal use and protects the environment from contamination
Short-term Effects of Opioids
The short-term side effects of using opioids may include:
- Impotence in men
- Nausea and vomiting
- Euphoria (feeling high)
- Difficulty breathing, which can lead to or worsen sleep apnea
- Headaches, dizziness, and confusion, which can lead to falls and fractures
Long-term Effects of Opioids
The longer-term side effects of using opioids may include:
- Increased tolerance
- Substance use disorder or dependence
- Liver damage
- Infertility in women
- Worsening pain (known as “opioid-induced hyperalgesia”)
- Life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in babies born to mothers taking opioids
Even when prescribed to treat a specific condition or pain, there are serious side effects and risks of using opioids, including:
- Physical dependence
- Substance use disorder
If you have been taking opioids for a period, your body becomes accustomed to or tolerant of that opioid dose. You may require increasing amounts of the opioid to get the same effect. If you stop taking the drug for a few days and then start taking the drug at the same dose you were used to, it may increase chances of an overdose. This is because you lose tolerance to the medication when stopping it, even for a few days.
You are likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you lower your opioid dose quickly or you suddenly stop taking it. If you plan to reduce your dose, do it with help from a health care provider.
HRS Group Inc. has a great team that can help you with all your health and safety needs. Contact Deborah toll free at 1-877-907-7744 or locally at 705-749-1259.
We can also be reached at www.hrsgroup.com.
Ensure your workplace is a safe place.
Remember – In Canada, “All accidents are Preventable”
‘Work’ and ‘Play’ safe.
Daniel L. Beal
CHSEP – Advanced Level
CEO and Training Director