Preventing Opioid-Related Overdoses

Naloxone reverses the effects of opioids from an overdose.

Opioids are drugs that include prescribed pain relievers, like codeine or morphine, as well as illegal drugs, like heroin. Patients can benefit from opioids that are prescribed and used properly. When opioids are misused, they can be deadly.

Unknowingly, potent opioids like fentanyl may be put in illegally produced pills that look like prescription medications, including Percocet, Oxycontin and Xanax. None of these commercially produced formulations contain fentanyl.

In Canada, opioid use and overdose deaths are on the rise.

Call 911 right away, if you think someone is overdosing.  An overdose on opioids can quickly lead to death.

Signs on an Opioid Overdose: blue lips or nails; dizziness and confusion; can't be woken up; choking, gurgling or snoring sounds; slow, weak or no breathing and/or drowsiness or difficulty staying awake

Taking action

Drug overdose deaths are preventable.

The provincial government has developed an action plan to prevent and mitigate unintentional opioid overdoses and deaths among youth and adults in Prince Edward Island.

Reduce your risk

What are situations that can put me at risk of an opioid-related overdose?

  • mixing substances including alcohol and prescription drugs
  • recreational or one time use
  • changes in prescription
  • using after period of reduced or no drug use

How can I reduce my risk of overdose?

  • Don't use alone
  • know your tolerance (that is, how much you can take)
  • have a Naloxone kit with you, and know how to use it
  • start with a small amount to check the strength
  • do not take opioids with alcohol or other drugs (unless prescribed by your doctor)

Where is Naloxone available?Image of PEI map that shows locations of Provincial Needle Exchange Program as being: Tignish, Alberton, O'Leary, Summerside, Charlottetown, Montague and Souris

The following sites have free naloxone kits free of charge for clients who are at high risk for opioid-related overdoses, and their friends or family members:

  • Needle Exchange Program across PEI
  • Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility 
  • Queen Street Recovery Clinic
  • Montague/Souris Community Mental Health and Addictions
  • Provincial Corrections Center
  • Mental Health and Addictions Summerside
  • Mi'kmaq Confederacy
  • Provincial Group Homes
  • PEERS Alliance

If a community member feels they require a naloxone kit and are not a client of any of the services listed above they can obtain a kit at no cost at any of the Needle Exchange Program sites across the province.

Hospitals, emergency departments, provincial correctional facilities, opioid replacement clinics, EMS and police are all equipped with Naloxone.

Anyone can purchase a naloxone kit without a prescription (cost is approximately $50) at most PEI pharmacies.

Other community groups/programs that serve populations who are at risk for opioid-related overdoses equipped with naloxone kits to use in the case of staff encountering an overdose in progress include:

  • Volunteer fire departments with medical first responders across PEI
  • Strength and Insite programs
  • Community Mental Health Outreach Queens
  • Libraries and Archives
  • Soup Kitchen

Distribution and Administration of Take Home Naloxone (THN) Kits

Time Period THN kits distributed to Needle Exchange Program THN kits distributed to other sites where kits are available to clients Reports of administration of THN kits THN kits distributed to community groups/programs that serve populations who are at risk for opioid-related overdoses
June 1, 2017 - Oct 1, 2018 442 251 121 99

1Naloxone is administered when signs of decreased level of consciousness are identified; a decreased level of consciousness is not necessarily a result of opioids. All confirmed instances of opioid-related overdoses (reported since 2017) and deaths (reported since 2016) involved mixed toxicology. If a naloxone kit is used by a client of the THN program, an anonymous form is filled out with the details of the situation and the form is returned to the CPHO for surveillance purposes. There have been twelve forms submitted as of Oct 1, 2018, indicating that naloxone was administered. In eleven of the forms, it was reported that the person survived; no information was provided on one form. Note that the CPHO does not have numbers on naloxone usage by first responders or other health service providers as this is not part of the Provincial THN Program.

Treatment for Opioid Addiction and Misuse

Where can I get treatment?

If you are addicted to opioid drugs, treatment and supports are available to help you recover. To learn more, visit Opioid Replacement Therapy Program.

What other services are available to people who use drugs?

The Needle Exchange Program provides confidential services including clean needles and other supplies, immunization, testing, wound care, education, and referrals. 

Opioid-Related Overdoses and Deaths in PEI

Opioid-related overdose and death surveillance reports are posted here on a quarterly schedule. This information helps to inform program planning and to identify sudden increases in overdoses or deaths.

  • The majority (93%) of overdose cases reported below involved mixed toxicology (i.e., one or more opioids combined with one or more non-opioid substances, such as alcohol).

  • For overdose cases, fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are not detected by traditional toxicology screens and detection requires further testing.  Therefore, information on the presence of fentanyl and analogues for overdose cases is incomplete.  Work is underway to establish testing for fentanyl and analogues in PEI.  None of the overdose cases reported below were known to be positive for fentanyl or analogues.

  • All deaths reported below involved mixed toxicology (i.e. one or more opioids, plus one or more non-opioid substances).

  • For apparent opioid-related deaths, post-mortem toxicology testing includes fentanyl and fentanyl analogues.

Time period

 Number of accidental opioid-related overdoses in PEI1

Number of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths in PEI2
Number and percent of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths involving fentanyl or fentanyl analogues
July to September, 2018 9 not yet available4 not yet available4
April to June, 2018 6 not yet available4 not yet available4
January to March, 2018 4 04 04
2017 103 4 0 (0.0%)
not available
1 (20%)

1 Accidental/unintentional overdoses involving opioids does not include overdoses that occurred as a result of intentional self-inflicted harm.

2 Accidental/unintentional deaths involving opioids does not include deaths that occurred as a result of intentional self-inflicted harm; only closed (certified) cases are reported.

3 Surveillance by the Chief Public Health Office of toxicological cases presenting to PEI’s emergency departments began in May 2017. 

4 Death investigations can take 12 to 18 months to complete. Data for 2018 are incomplete and numbers may increase as coroner investigations continue.  



Published date: 
October 29, 2018
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General Inquiries

Department of Health and Wellness
4th Floor North, Shaw Building
105 Rochford Street
Charlottetown, PE   C1A 7N8

Phone: (902) 368-6414
Fax: (902) 368-4121