Opioids

Opioids, also known as narcotics, are a form of very strong pain relievers. Some of these drugs can be prescribed, but they are also found in street form. Examples include: 

  • fentanyl and carfentanil
  • morphine 
  • hydromorphone 
  • codeine and T3’s 
  • Percocet 
  • Tramadol and Tramacet 
  • oxycodone 
  • heroin 

Opioids are addictive, even for people who are using prescription opioids. If someone uses too much of any opioid, they are at risk for respiratory depression, or their breathing may slow to a stop. 

The opioid crisis

In the past few years, Canada has seen an increase in deaths from opioid overdose. In 2017, Manitoba had 86 deaths, and Canada had 3,987. It is more important now than ever that we learn about safer use of opioids. 

Source: National report: Apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada (released June 2018)

Reduce your risks

While using opioids in any way other than as prescribed can be dangerous, some people still choose to use opioids. Here are some things to consider to improve your safety:

Use sterile needles and syringes

Find somewhere that distributes sterile needles and syringes, such as Street Connections. Many walk-in clinics also offer this service. Re-using or sharing needles is dangerous, as you risk getting HIV and Hepatitis C, both of which are life-threatening. Use a new needle each time.

Buddy system

If you’re using, make sure you’re with a friend who doesn’t use, in case you overdose.

Watch your dose

Remember that while you may build up a tolerance to higher doses, if you haven’t used in a while you may not be able to handle what you used to.

Avoid pregnancy

If you use opioids while pregnant, there can be very serious problems for the fetus, such as premature delivery or life-threatening withdrawal symptoms.

Use somewhere safe

Try not to use in unsafe places or around people you don’t trust. 

Quitting opioids

Quitting opioids is very difficult. There are many resources available, including Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, who has a counsellor on campus in the Student Counselling Centre.

Methadone

Methadone can help make the process of rehabilitation more effective. It does not cure the addiction, but it can reduce cravings for drugs. Being on this methadone also makes it harder to experience a high from other drugs. When taken appropriately, methadone will not make you feel high or drugged, and many people have said it helped them live a more normal life. Methadone treatment is available through Opiate Addiction Treatment Services, which has locations on Main Street and Pembina Hwy. 

Source: Opiate Addiction Treatment Services

Opioid addiction help

Whether you are looking to quit, cut down on use, or just to receive help, there are many options available: 

  • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba: 1031 Portage Ave. 
  • Addictions Foundation of Manitoba also has a counsellor on the Fort Garry campus in the Student Counselling Centre. 
  • Student Counselling Centre: 474 UMSU University Centre 
  • University Health Services or your family doctor 

Fentanyl

There have been a significant number of overdoses and deaths related to legal and illicit fentanyl use across Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada.

What is fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent prescription synthetic opioid, used primarily to treat severe pain. It is up to 100 times stronger than other drugs such as heroin, morphine and oxycodone.

Where does fentanyl come from?

In Manitoba illicit fentanyl powder is being imported from overseas. 

Fentanyl is also obtained by sale of legitimate prescriptions, theft of prescriptions, theft of the drug from institutions, double doctoring, fraudulent prescriptions, as well as purchasing from dark websites and illicit production.

Drug dealers often sell fake versions of drugs that contain unknown and varied amounts of fentanyl and other toxic substances, without the buyer knowing.

Why should I be concerned?

Cocaine, oxycodone, club drugs, heroin and other drugs you may choose to use may be cut with fentanyl in powder, liquid or pill form.

You can’t see, smell, or taste fentanyl. If the drug you are using has been cut with fentanyl or has been unintentionally contaminated with fentanyl, it can kill you. A deadly dose is equal to 2 grains of salt.

Can I test my drugs for fentanyl?

No, there is no rapid detection test that is currently available for general use.

What does a fentanyl overdose look like?

Signs of an overdose include: severe sleepiness, the person can’t walk or talk or their body is limp 

  • no response to yelling or rubbing knuckles on the centre of their chest 
  • slow or no heartbeat 
  • slow or shallow breathing, trouble breathing, or no breathing; gurgling or snoring sounds 
  • cold, clammy skin or bluish lips 
  • vomiting 
  • pupils that are very small or eyes are rolled back 

What should I do if I think someone is overdosing?

Always call 911 immediately.

Be prepared to give rescue breaths if the person stops breathing and/or administer naloxone (Narcan) if available.

If I choose to use fentanyl, what advice can you give me?

For your own health and safety, we always advise that you avoid all illicit drugs. However, if you do choose to use:

  • never use alone
  • start with a small amount 
  • do not mix substances, including alcohol, as it increases risk of overdose 
  • call 911 right away if you think someone is overdosing 
  • make a plan and know how to respond in case of an overdose 
  • use only where help is easily available 
  • be prepared to give rescue breaths and/or, if available, administer naloxone (Narcan) until help arrives 

I'm concerned about my own drug use, who can I talk to?

There are many non-judgmental and confidential supports available to you on or off campus. An important first step to a healthier life or recovery is reaching out for help:

For more information please use these links:

Know Your Source: knowyoursource.ca 

Manitoba Government: gov.mb.ca/fentanyl 

University of Manitoba Health and Wellness Educator, Katie Kutryk, 204-295-9032 katie.kutryk@umanitoba.ca or visit umanitoba.ca/student/health-wellness 

Naloxone

Naloxone is a medication that reverses overdose caused by opioids and can save a person’s life. It does not work on overdose caused by drugs other than opioids. The purpose of a take-home naloxone program is to get naloxone into the hands of people who are most likely to be there during an opioid overdose as minutes and seconds count to save a life.

The University has a take-home naloxone program. Please contact Britt Harvey to obtain a free naloxone kit.

Britt Harvey, health and wellness educator
Health and Wellness Office 

Room 469 UMSU University Centre 
65 Chancellor’s Circle
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)  
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 
britt.harvey@umanitoba.ca  
204-295-9032

Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m to 4:30 p.m.

Why is it important?

There have been a significant number of overdoses and deaths related to legal and illicit fentanyl use across Winnipeg, Manitoba and Canada.

Even if a person does not choose to use the drug fentanyl, fentanyl is being cut in or laced into other drugs such as cocaine, oxycodone, heroin and other club drugs such as MDMA without the user knowing. This is especially dangerous for first-time or occasional drug users. 

There are many places you can access naloxone throughout Manitoba. The Street Connections website has a tool that can help you find a location close to you.

If I am worried about a roommate, classmate or family member who uses drugs, how can I get my own kit?

Naloxone kits are available for purchase by anyone, without a prescription, at several locations around Winnipeg and Manitoba. To read more about how to access a naloxone kit in the community click here (PDF).

Note: Individuals who have health coverage under First Nations Inuit Health are eligible for free naloxone kits from locations that are selling them. Consult the pharmacy for more information.

Will the university, my family, or my professors be notified that I use drugs?

The primary goal of naloxone programs are to keep everybody safe and healthy. No one will be notified that you have received a kit, and your information stays entirely confidential.

If I use drugs, can I get a free naloxone kit anywhere else?

There is an interactive map on the Street Connections website that shows places where take-home-naloxone kits can be accessed for free by people who meet the necessary criteria.

Can I bring someone with me to the appointment?

Yes. In fact, it is best if the person comes in with another person who is close to them (partner, roommate, family member) who is likely to be present if they overdose. These other people will also be offered training on how to respond to opioid overdose but will not be given a kit.

If a person is overdosing on opioid drugs, can I save their life without using naloxone?

Yes, in most cases the person needs oxygen, so call 911 and start rescue breathing if the person is not breathing effectively.

I would like to learn more about fentanyl and preventing or responding to overdose:

On campus information: 

Dangers of fentanyl article https://news.umanitoba.ca/dangers-of-fentanyl/

Other information: 

Video - Naloxone Saves Lives https://vimeo.com/164669763

Addictions Foundation of Manitoba - Fentanyl What You Need To Know