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This article was published 26/11/2018 (871 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba has become the first province to give paramedics the ability to administer a drug that helps prevent methamphetamine-related psychosis.
To kick off Substance Use and Addictions Awareness Week, Health Minister Cameron Friesen announced Monday that olanzapine is now part of paramedics’ tool kits.
"We are giving paramedics this additional tool, and we believe that this will help here to keep not only addicts who are exhibiting the signs of stress, signs of psychosis or extreme agitation… help to keep them safe, (as well as) paramedics who are responding to them and those around them," Friesen said.
Olanzapine is an anti-psychotic medication that can be taken orally with disintegrating tablets. It helps lessen the severity of symptoms, such as agitation, for those who have used meth.
The health minister acknowledged the drug is a piece of the province’s meth plan, but not the whole puzzle.
The government has already opened five pilot rapid access to addictions medicine clinics and increased bed capacity at some treatment facilities, Friesen noted. He could not disclose when a long-term strategy for dealing with meth in Manitoba will be presented, but pointed to the May 2018 Virgo report on mental health and addictions as the province’s roadmap.
"Manitobans can expect that the government will continue to respond, that we will continue to cascade out additional announcements as we absorb that report, as we look at what we need to do and as we, I think, exhibit that same flexibility and innovation. We’re responding," he said. "We haven’t done everything yet that we need to do and we are fully engaged in this work."
Dr. Ginette Poulin, medical director of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, welcomed the addition of olanzapine to paramedics’ arsenal. She also noted there’s much more work to do to curb the meth crisis.
"Because it’s such an acute crisis, it’s hard. We’re reacting as opposed to being proactive. And it’s hard to keep up with what I term as kind of the ‘drug of the day,'" Poulin said.
"So we were dealing with the opioid crisis and trying to find ways to manage this in a more effective fashion, and then we had the surge of crystal meth… We’re trying to look to other jurisdictions and, unfortunately, when it comes to crystal meth, there’s no magic antidote or no pill that solves it all."
NDP health critic Andrew Swan said the provincial government has been "over the top at providing information on cannabis," but lagging on public education about meth.
"This is a stop-gap measure. We need to do everything we can to protect first responders, but there’s so much more that has to be done that this government has not taken on," he said.