New high school program aims to educate on opioid overdoses

By Raynaldo Suarez

A new training program is being introduced to high school students across Canada to teach them how to respond to an opioid overdose.

The Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation is launching the free program, in addition to preexisting CPR and automated external defibrillator training it offers for free to high schools across the country.

“4.8 million youth have already been trained in CPR and defibrillation, and now what we’re doing is we’re offering schools in a voluntary manner, if they would like to add, how to respond to a suspected opioid overdose to the CPR training that students are already receiving,” says Sandra Clarke, executive director with the foundation.

Adding, “More and more young people will be trained in how to respond to a suspected opioid overdose including calling 911 quickly, performing CPR and if needed, knowing how to give nasal Naloxone spray to help save that person’s life.”

President of the BC School Trustee Association Tim Bennett said while they have not received any feedback, he understands any concerns parents might have.

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“It’s going to be critically important that we’re working with health authorities with nonprofit providers to ensure that this training can happen in a safe way. And it’s also going to be important that schools and districts keep communication with parents about what the training is and why it is important,” Bennett said.

“(There is) probably some anxiety from families as they hear that this may be rolling out in our buildings and that’s why we would be working with people who are who have the ability to ensure that this training can happen in a safe way,” he added.

According to a statement from the Public Health Agency of Canada, opioid deaths have continued to rise in recent years.

“The latest data show that the number of opioid-related deaths remained high and continued to climb in 2021, with a total of 7,560 opioid-related deaths that year. While the average number of opioid-related deaths per day was eight in 2016, this number more than doubled, reaching an all-time high of 21 per day in 2021. The number of opioid-related hospitalizations also grew from 13 per day in 2016, to 17 per day in 2021.”

ACT’s opioid program will begin in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and Quebec before expanding to other provinces.

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