Introduction: In 2015, there were 476 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths, prompting BC’s Provincial Health Officer to declare a public health emergency on 14 Apr 2016. Paramedics of BC’s Ambulance Service (BCAS) are on the front lines in this crisis. Here we examine recent trends in the number of suspected overdose events attended by the BCAS and the use of naloxone, an opioid antagonist, by BCAS paramedics. Methods: The BC Centre for Disease Control receives a weekly data feed from BC Emergency Health Services that includes all records from the BCAS Patient Care Record where: naloxone was administered by paramedics; the primary impression code indicates poisoning or overdose; or, the originating call is associated with ingestion poisoning (‘card 23’). Here, we report a descriptive analysis of these data for suspected drug overdose events during the period January 1, 2010 to September 30, 2016. Results: Between January 2010 and September 2016 BCAS paramedics attended 164,227 suspected overdose events; 12% of these events (n=16,944) included naloxone administration by BCAS paramedics. Paralleling the rise in illicit drug overdose deaths in BC, naloxone administration by paramedics has been increasing rapidly, doubling from approximately 180/month in 2014, to 370/month in 2016. When naloxone was administered by paramedics, 90% of these patients were transported, whereas 77% were transported when naloxone was not administered. Administrations occurred most frequently on Friday and Saturday evenings. Almost half (46%) of all naloxone administrations by paramedics were recorded as being in a home or residence; 18% were recorded as occurring on a street or highway. The proportion of naloxone administrations among males has increased yearly. In 2010, 58% of naloxone administrations were in males compared to 69% in 2016. Conclusion: The number of overdose deaths in BC has risen drastically in recent years and the proportion of ambulance calls requiring administration of naloxone by BCAS has climbed correspondingly. The vast majority of overdose cases-especially those requiring naloxone-are transported to the emergency department. With the overdose crisis showing little sign of abating, the administration of naloxone by BC paramedics will continue to be a critical element of the provincial response.
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