Fighting Fentanyl

Orla Adams
Orla Adams (Photo by Maria Asselin-Roy)

As more “party” drugs like cocaine, MDMA, and ketamine are found to be cut with fentanyl and its analogues – opioids up to 100 times more potent than morphine – there is growing concern among members of the nightclub and underground party scenes about the risk of accidental overdoses at their events.

This is why, in fall 2016, registered nurse Orla Adams, BA’08, launched a series of workshops at clubs around Vancouver to train promoters, club employees, and party-goers on first aid techniques, recognizing symptoms of an overdose, and how to administer the life-saving opioid antidote Naloxone. Previously, Adams had worked at Insite – one of Vancouver’s supervised injection facilities – where she helped to treat and prevent many overdoses.

According to Adams, club- and party-goers are a difficult population to target for health education. “They are predominantly healthy young people who don’t regularly interface with the health care system,” she says. In Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, however, the culture of drug use is more open, and the population of drug-users who regularly interact with health care providers is well educated in overdose prevention and management. “[They] look out for each other and save lives on a daily basis.”

Adams’ concern is personal: more than a nurse, she is also a DJ, dancer, and long-time participant in the nightlife scene, and has witnessed first-hand the effects of its culture of secrecy. While working on an inpatient ward at St. Paul’s Hospital, she provided care to patients who had overdosed on fentanyl or its analogues when they believed they were taking other drugs. Although some patients survived their ordeals, others never made it out of intensive care.

These situations, she says, are preventable. “I want party-goers who are going to be using recreational drugs to feel comfortable telling someone what they are using. I want a high level of awareness of the risks of drug use and a strong impulse to look out for each other.”

Now living in Toronto, Adams hopes to continue her educational work there before the situation reaches the critical level it has in Vancouver. The popularity of her initial training workshops gives her reason to be optimistic. “It’s encouraging to see promoters and entertainment companies being honest about the realities of drug use in the nightclub industry,” she says, “and showing leadership by providing free opportunities for their clients and staff to learn more about the risks of illicit drug use and how to manage overdose situations.”

For more information on overdose prevention and management, visit towardtheheart.com.

Adams can be found online @OWABOWA on Facebook, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

S. D. L. Curry, MBA’00, has published a new book Hidden by the Leaves. Set amidst the Christian holocaust of 17th century Japan, Hidden by the Leaves tells the story of a priest and his two young catechists in their heroic efforts to save the lives of the villagers who have become their family.

Dr. Martina Scholtens

In her new book, entitled Your Heart is the Size of Your Fist, Martina Scholtens, MD’00, a clinical instructor with UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, offers a unique and personal glimpse into the efforts taken by doctors to care for refugees in Canada – the first by a Canadian doctor on refugee health. Through first‑hand recollections, she sheds light on the experiences of people seeking a fresh start in a new country while navigating around poverty, language barriers, and neighbours who aren’t always friendly or helpful.

Dr. Paul Dhillon, BA’04, is a general practitioner in rural Saskatchewan and a clinical assistant professor at the University of Saskatchewan. He is co‑founder of The Review Course in Family Medicine, which helps residents and international medical graduates prepare for their certification examination in family medicine. On  the leadership front, he has served as president of the Professional Association of Interns and Residents of Saskatchewan, and in 2016 he captained Team Canada to a 14th place finish at the World Medical Football Championships in Barcelona, Spain. Dhillon has also served as a medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces; worked in Sierra Leone in an Ebola hospital with Save the Children; and edited a book – The Surprising Lives of Small-Town Doctors – donating all of the proceeds to charity. The College of Family Physicians of Canada has honoured him with the Murray Stalker Award “as the Canadian family medicine resident most likely to become a future leader in our field.”

Julie Walkinshaw, MSW’08, has recently expanded her counselling business in the Okanagan by hiring another counsellor. As well as offering general counselling services to individuals, families and children, both counsellors specialize in work with individuals and couples that are dealing with sex addiction.

Miranda Lam

Miranda Lam, LLB’02, a litigation partner at McCarthy Tétrault, has been appointed vice chair of the Vancouver Foundation Board of Directors for 2017‑2018. Vancouver Foundation is the largest community foundation in Canada, with more than $1.1 billion in assets and more than 1,700 funds under management.


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