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August 31st is International Overdose Awareness Day , a day that aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. OPP Superintendent Bryan MacKillop and Alison Watson from the Centre of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) stopped by Your Morning to shine some light on this important day,

From the beginning of 2016 until the end of 2018, more than 11,000 people died from opioid overdoses in Canada. Due to their effect on the part of the brain which regulates breathing, opioids in high doses can cause respiratory depression and death.

How to identify an opioid overdose

An opioid overdose can be identified by a combination of three signs and symptoms referred to as the “opioid overdose triad”:

  1. Pinpoint pupils (contracting randomly)
  2. Unconsciousness
  3. Respiratory depression (hyperventilation)

Death following opioid overdose is preventable if the person receives basic life support and the timely administration of the opioid antagonist naloxone.

For more information about overdoses, visit this website.

What to do if you witness an overdose

Call 911 right away. If you have naloxone with you (you can get a free kit at most pharmacies) and are trained in administering it, you may do so. While naloxone administered by bystanders is a potentially life-saving emergency interim response to opioid overdose, it should not be seen as a replacement for comprehensive medical care.

The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act

If someone who witnesses an overdose has taken drugs themselves, it might discourage them from calling 911. It shouldn’t, thanks to the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA). The GSDOA provides some legal protection for people who experience or witness an overdose and call 911 or their local emergency number for help. It can protect you from:

  • Charges for possession of a controlled substance (i.e. drugs) under section 4(1) of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act
  • Breach of conditions regarding simple possession of controlled substances (i.e drugs) in: pre-trial release probations orders conditional sentences parole.

The GSDOA applies to anyone seeking emergency support during an overdose, including the person experiencing an overdose. It doesn’t provide legal protection against more serious offences, such as:

  • Outstanding warrants
  • Production and trafficking of controlled substances
  • All other crimes not outlined within the GSDOA

Watch the video clip above for more info.