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Ottawa high school students learn how to administer naloxone

As the city of Ottawa is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis. Deaths and emergency visits have skyrocketed, with more than 300 deaths reported over the last three years. The drug crisis has prompted a new course in high schools.

Students are now learning how to administer naloxone in the event of an opioid overdose.

“I think it’s really important and cool to learn about because we could potentially save someone’s life. And I think that’s very important as we grow older, because opioids are actually very common,” says Shauna Martin, a Grade 9 student.

The opioid overdose response training module launched in 2022 and has helped more than 10,000 kids from 60 schools across Ottawa learn to respond to a suspected opioid overdose.

“We all have good intentions at the end of the day when it comes to saving others, but sometimes when we are not aware of what to do, we can perform the wrong stuff, allowing them to suffer more and even lead them to death when we try to do the opposite. Therefore, it’s good for us to be aware of what to do,” says Grade 9 student Anastaziia Saber.

“I think it’s a very helpful program for everybody to know at almost any age that you’re capable of learning it, because it’s possible to be in danger at any time of our lives. So if our peers know how to give CPR and know its uses for everybody else, it is valuable,” says Angel Smart, in Grade 11.

There are now 150 phys-ed teachers in Ottawa trained to teach students how to use naloxone.

“It’s so important for students to learn how to save lives. And at the ACT Foundation, our goal is to see every young person across Canada graduate with the skills and knowledge to save a life,” says ACT Foundation Executive Director Sandra Clarke.

Realizing that opioid overdosing has become a problem, the Advanced Coronary Treatment (ACT) Foundation has brought its opioid overdose response training module to 830 schools and 2,300 teachers across Canada.

“The teachers love teaching it. The students love learning it. Students want to know how to help save a life, whether it be a parent who is suffering a heart attack or someone in front of them suffering a cardiac arrest, and also what to do if someone suffers an opioid overdose. There’s simple skills that they can easily learn, and they want to know,” says Clarke.

For these students, they hope to never have to use this training but are grateful for the important skills they have learned.

“It is scary, but it’s also a part of life. We never know what happens, but it is also good that we are prepared,” says Smart.

The opioid response training course is an addition to CPR and defibrillator training in schools.

“Anything that’s going to go towards saving a life, like why not?” says Lester B. Pearson Athletic Director Sarah McCaffrey. “Even if they go back and they, they talk to their parents about it for a few minutes or they show it, without actually doing compressions or but if they show it on a little brother or a little sister, that little tidbit of knowledge, I think, could be something that would empower them to maybe help in this situation.”

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