Local music venues lagging in opioid remedy kits

East York behind times when it comes to life-saving medication naloxone

Not all East York music spaces have equipped themselves with naloxone kits.

Naloxone is an injected drug that can be used to help save the life of someone who has overdosed on opiates. Among opiate users, it is sometimes referred to as a ‘miracle drug.’  (jason sutcliffe/toronto observer)

In the wake of Ontario’s 865 opioid-related deaths last year, many music venues across Toronto are using naloxone medication to temporarily reverse symptoms of an opioid overdose.

However, at least two East York music venues do not carry a naloxone kit.

“We are a full-service restaurant, as well as a music venue,” said Joanne Clayton, owner of Relish Bar on Danforth Avenue, which does not have a kit. “That is not really our crowd.”

A spokesperson for The Sauce on Danforth said they do not carry the kit, but would not comment further.

The Danforth Music Hall on Danforth did not comment when asked whether they carry a naloxone kit.

Norm Maschke, assistant manager of Lee’s Palace on Bloor Street West in the Annex, says his venue got a naloxone kit on site earlier this year.

“People do like to party late at night at bars and music clubs and elsewhere, and it would be in our best interest to make sure that if somebody does end up in a compromising position that we can at least help them as best we can,” the Canadian Press reported Maschke saying in October. “To not do it is negligent.”

Tyson Cushman,  a former drug user who recently quit methamphetamine after feeling the effects of a laced dose, says naloxone is “crucial, in the wake of the epidemic that we are currently facing.”

Cushman called it a scary experience. “I thought I was going to die,” he said. “Whether or not venue owners or patrons like to admit it, drug use at music venues is common. Naloxone is a life-saving drug.”

A map of pharmacies where Naloxone kits are available in East York. (Olivia Blackmore/Toronto OBserver)

Meanwhile, the public can also take action.

Kristi Lemke, a harm-reduction housing worker at the Fred Victor centre, encourages writing letters to city councillors to demand action.

“Attend workshops and educate yourself on how to identify an overdose and properly administer naloxone,” Lemke said.

“By having naloxone on site at music venues, it creates a safer environment and helps eliminate the stigma surrounding substance abuse.”

How to acquire a naloxone kit

The provincial government has been expanding access to naloxone kits over the past year. Free naloxone kits can be obtained from participating pharmacies in Ontario. There are two types of kits; intramuscular injections and a nasal spray.

Some participating pharmacies only have one type. Training in how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to administer naloxone is given on site by the pharmacist.

Current and past opioid users, those who have recently left a correctional facility, as well as friends and family of someone at risk of overdosing are eligible for free kits with a valid Ontario health card.

(Olivia Blackmore/Toronto Observer)