UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Intention to seek emergency medical services during community overdose events in British Columbia, Canada: a cross-sectional survey Kievit, Bradley; Xavier, Jessica C.; Ferguson, Max; Palis, Heather; Moallef, Soroush; Slaunwhite, Amanda; Gillis, Terri; Virk, Rajmeet; Buxton, Jane A.


Introduction Canada and the United States continue to experience increasing overdose deaths attributed to highly toxic illicit substances, driven by fentanyl and its analogues. Many bystanders report being hesitant to call 9-1-1 at an overdose due to fears around police presence and arrests. In Canada, a federal law was enacted in 2017, the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act (GSDOA), to provide protection from simple drug possession and related charges when 9-1-1 is called to an overdose. There is limited evidence, however, that the GSDOA has improved rates of intention to call 9-1-1 at overdose events. We therefore sought to examine intent to call 9-1-1 among persons who received GSDOA education and were at risk of witnessing an overdose. Methods A cross-sectional survey was conducted with people at risk of witnessing an overdose recruited at 19 Take Home Naloxone (THN) program sites across British Columbia as well as online through Foundry from October 2020 to April 2021. Descriptive statistics were used to examine intention to call 9-1-1 at future overdoses. Multivariable logistic regression models were built in hierarchical fashion to examine factors associated with intention to call 9-1-1. Results Overall, 89.6% (n = 404) of the eligible sample reported intention to call 9-1-1. In the multivariable model, factors positively associated with intention to call 9-1-1 included identifying as a cisgender woman (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]: 3.37; 95% CI: 1.19–9.50) and having previous GSDOA awareness ([AOR]: 4.16; 95% CI: 1.62–10.70). Having experienced a stimulant overdose in the past 6 months was negatively associated with intention to call 9-1-1 ([AOR]: 0.24; 95% CI: 0.09–0.65). Conclusion A small proportion of the respondents reported that, despite the enactment of GSDOA, they did not intend to call 9-1-1 and those who were aware of the act were more likely to report an intention to call at future overdose events. Increasing GSDOA awareness and/or additional interventions to support the aims of the GSDOA could address ongoing reluctance to seek emergency medical care by people who use drugs.

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