A lifesaving skill, with the correct tools to do it
by amir said, contributor
After an eventful Dis-Orientation week, a different kind of first-aid kit was left on campus for students. Narcan kits are available for free at the University of Regina. Many consider this to be long overdue in the wake of the opioid crisis Canada is facing nationwide.
Narcan, which is one of the most popular brands of naloxone, was made available at the University of Regina for the first time during Dis-Orientation Week 2022. The introduction of the kits was accompanied by an in-person workshop on how to properly use them, which was facilitated by Regina Public Interest Research Group (RPIRG) board member Kale McLellan. The Narcan training description stated that “Saskatchewan has been experiencing a record number of opioid poisonings leading to hundreds of preventable deaths each year.”
Members of the campus community, like First Nations University student Alaska Bigeagle, welcome the arrival of Narcan kits on campus. As an Indigenous Social Work student with a background in harm reduction and community outreach, Bigeagle knows full well the importance of raising awareness about naloxone and making it accessible. “More people have died from the opioid crisis than COVID-19 in Canada. Growing up in Vancouver and working with Downtown Eastside’s vulnerable population, getting Narcan training is just the standard. I never realized how many people accidentally overdose. Harm reduction saves lives.”
Bigeagle currently works in harm reduction in inner-city Regina, where she continues to work with populations who are at risk of succumbing to Saskatchewan’s ever-growing overdose crisis. “Getting students trained in Narcan use is a great start. Education is important to abolishing the stigma surrounding drug use. People who use drugs are still people, and we must show them kindness and humility.”
Narcan kits are available for free at the offices of the University of Regina Students’ Union (URSU) and UR Pride on the second floor of the Riddell Centre. While reception has been positive overall among the campus community, controversy still exists around opioid usage and naloxone. Ariana Giroux, UR Pride’s Interim Executive Director, remains a firm proponent of the importance of naloxone.
“There’s still a lot of stigma around naloxone, around intravenous drug use, when realistically, people are going to use whether or not you look like a bad person carrying naloxone on you. […] It doesn’t matter whether they’re an intravenous drug user, let’s just save their life.”
While many view naloxone as unnecessary and unsafe, and some even believe it to encourage the use of opioids among the population, Giroux vehemently disagrees. “Narcan and naloxone should be a part of first aid training in the first place. It’s easy and completely safe. If you make a mistake or give somebody Narcan when they’re not actually in a life-or-death situation, it’s still completely safe. There’s no real side effects, so why shouldn’t we all be trained and have that opportunity to save someone’s life? […] If you can save somebody from dying, isn’t that a good thing? There’s no reason not to have Narcan available for students on campus.”
Students who are interested in receiving their free Narcan kits on campus are encouraged to visit the URSU front desk or UR Pride. Training is easily accessible, with naloxone kits and training additionally being available for Saskatchewan residents at numerous health-based and community organizations across the province.