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"Opioid poisonings can happen to anyone," says Alexandre Mihaila, a pharmacist and of MisterPharmacist™ boutique pharmacy. He explains that opioid deaths are not limited to a particular group or population, as the number of opioid-related deaths is now surpassing that of motor vehicle accidents in Canada. This means that anyone can be at risk, regardless of their background or reason for using opioids. The main cause of opioid poisonings is due to a mixture of a regular opioid with a more potent one, often unknowingly to the user. This is especially problematic when individuals turn to unregulated sources, where they may receive extremely toxic opioids like carfentanil. Mihaila emphasizes that substance use exists across every socioeconomic demographic, so it is essential not to distance oneself from the opioid crisis.
"Naloxone can and does save lives," says Mihaila. Opioids can affect breathing and cause the lungs to stop working, leading to fatal consequences. Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of opioid poisoning. It blocks the synthetic opioids from shutting down the lungs and restores breathing, making it a highly effective treatment. The medication has minimal side effects and is considered less harmful than not administering it. Naloxone kits are readily available at Canadian pharmacies, and widespread adoption and willingness to use them could dramatically reduce the number of deaths caused by accidental opioid poisonings.
One significant barrier to reducing opioid-related harm is the stigma associated with addiction and substance use. People are often unwilling to help or provide aid because they fear getting involved or do not understand the situation. The stigma also creates misconceptions about opioids, such as the false belief that touching fentanyl can result in a poisoning or that helping someone with opioid poisoning can lead to aggression. Mihaila stresses that education and tools, including Naloxone kits, are critical in saving lives, and it is crucial to combat the stigma surrounding opioids to bring about meaningful change. As a pharmacist at MisterPharmacist™, Mihaila is committed to raising awareness about opioid harm reduction and providing resources to those in need.