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New app helpful tool in battle against opioids: Northreach Society

Officials with Northreach Society are happy to see the province announce a new app that will aim to help prevent drug overdoses, but they warn that the battle against opioids is far from over.

The province says the Digital Overdose Response System, or DORS, will begin testing this summer in Calgary. It is designed to protect those who use illicit drugs while they’re alone.

Northreach Community-Based Health and STBBI Program Manager Lindsay Loset says a similar app has been used in British Columbia in the recent past and she believes it can help make a difference.

“It sets off an alarm after you use a substance and if you don’t respond to an alarm it will dispatch emergency services, and it also provides information on naloxone and substance use supports,” she explains. “They’ve seen a positive response to it, lots of people using it, and an increase of people using it as it rolls out.”

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However, Loset says the app is only one piece of the puzzle. She says, despite so much open talk about the dangers of opioids, substance use is still stigmatized and often people don’t like to admit or disclose that they might struggle.

She says, in addition to recovery funding and the new app, provincial drug testing could allow for individuals to test their drugs before using.

“People could be taking a substance and have a completely different reaction than expected because their drugs are not what they think they are,” she says. “People have died from a fentanyl overdose when using something like crystal meth or cocaine, and they weren’t expecting fentanyl in there.”

In 2020, data shows 70 per cent of overdose deaths in Alberta happened in private homes, and Associate Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan says the new app is meant to change that trend.

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