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Quebec teachers to train students on how to intervene during an opioid overdose

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Some 2,300 high school teachers in four Canadian provinces are now able to train their students to intervene in the event of an opioid overdose.

Just under 800 of these teachers are in Quebec.

The ACT Advanced Coronary Treatment Foundation has added the use of naloxone, the antidote administered nasally to counter the effects of an opioid overdose, to the cardiopulmonary resuscitation and automated external defibrillation program it offers free of charge to high schools across the country.

"Thanks to this training, we have more students who can respond to emergency situations and who sometimes make the difference," said Salim Grim, program manager for the ACT Foundation in Quebec.

Launched in June 2022, the first phase of this training program has now reached 2,300 teachers in 830 high schools in Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and British Columbia. It's estimated that more than 160,000 students could now be trained each year to respond to a suspected opioid overdose.

Among other things, the training enables teachers to teach students what opioids are and how overdoses occur; what naloxone is and how it works; how to recognize a suspected opioid overdose; and how to respond to a possible overdose, including administering a naloxone nasal spray if necessary.

"Opioid overdose response is an emerging issue in Canada in recent years," said ACT Foundation director of operations Jennifer Russell. "It's also related to CPR. It's something that students and even their teachers find completely logical and normal in the course of our training."

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, almost 6,000 deaths from apparent opioid overdose were reported between January and September 2023.

The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction notes that 94 per cent of opioid overdose deaths occur by accident, and that young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest-growing population requiring hospital care due to opioid overdose.

"Training the next generation of good Samaritans starts at school," said Grim. "We started with CPR a few years ago. The defibrillator was added to that training, and opioid overdose training was a logical evolution."

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