B.C.’s live event industry readies its response to opioid overdoses

Many venues in the live event industry are adding naloxone to their first aid kits and developing procedures and best practices to address opioid overdoses. 

Photo of crowd waving at stage at live concert

Photo credit: iStock.com/dannikonov

It can happen anywhere, including theatres, music venues, and wherever else people go for live entertainment. In 2017, more than 1,400 people died of drug overdoses in B.C. – with most of the overdoses linked to fentanyl. That’s why an increasing number of people in the event industry are adding naloxone to their first aid kits.

Naloxone is an injectable or inhalable drug that reverses the deadly effects of opiate overdoses. It can “buy time” for people who might not otherwise survive until an ambulance arrives.

I spoke to Keith Tyler, director of training for St. John Ambulance BC & Yukon, as he was preparing for his session at Actsafe’s 2018 Event Safety Conference: Opioid Overdose Management in the Workplace. He told me he generally speaks about all the practical aspects of implementing an opioid overdose management plan within a workplace or first aid program. This includes training, equipment, policies, procedures, and workplace safety requirements.

Addressing the stigma

Keith also told me that the stigma associated with opioid addiction and drug use can affect some people’s willingness to administer naloxone. Some first aid attendants and venue management do not want to offer naloxone, for a variety of reasons. Instead they wait for 911 to send an ambulance.

“When we present to groups, we want people to bring their questions and their thoughts so we can talk about them,” he says. “The idea is to work through people’s ideas, thoughts, and experiences to demonstrate the kind of robust policy that’s needed.”

Don Parman, Actsafe’s industry advisor for the performing arts, says: “Opioid overdoses are happening everywhere – at festivals and venues as far north as Fort St. John and all over the province. This is not just a Lower Mainland issue. Everyone should be looking at this as a hazard.”

Don says lots of people in the live event industry are developing procedures for dealing with opioid overdoses on their premises. He wants to hear how they are dealing with the situation at their own venues, and to establish best practices. Of course, people call 911. But do they have a naloxone kit on site? Have all of their staff members been trained to administer naloxone?

“We’re starting to have that conversation with more and more of our clients now. We’re talking to our venues about identifying it as a hazard and then how they can put that into their program.”

Reducing the harm and deaths from opioid overdoses

The B.C. government has a Take Home Naloxone program that provides training in overdose prevention, recognition, and first aid response as well as naloxone kits at no cost. People at risk of an opioid overdose or likely to witness and respond to an overdose are eligible for the program, which is delivered by participating community pharmacies throughout B.C.


More information about the Take Home Naloxone program is available at Toward the Heart, a service of the BC Centre for Disease Control. Some key links about naloxone and how to administer it are included on a web page from the B.C. government.

Read more in this CBC story: B.C. government to provide free take-home naloxone kits at pharmacies throughout province. See my post Can occupational first aid attendants administer naloxone?


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