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Manitoba paramedics first allowed to give antipsychotic medication to meth users: province
Manitoba is set to become the first province in Canada to allow paramedics to give a antipsychotic medication olanzapine to people on methamphetamine.
The Government of Manitoba announced on Monday a new protocol to permit paramedics to administer the drug to agitated meth users at risk of experiencing psychosis.
“Paramedics have seen first-hand how a person’s behaviour can quickly change when they’re using meth,” said Minister of Health, Senior and Activing Living Cameron Friesen in a news release.
“By granting paramedics the ability to administer olanzapine, we are giving them another tool to protect their patients, themselves and others.”
The medication, which lessens or prevents the symptoms of psychosis, is currently used in a number of clinical settings.
Manitoba’s paramedics will have to consult with a supervisor before giving the oral disintegrating tablets to consenting patients.
“We are pleased to see that paramedics across the province will be able to administer olanzapine in cases of known or suspected methamphetamine use,” said Brent Bekiaris, chair of the Paramedic Association of Manitoba, in a news release.
“These patients can quickly develop paranoia and exhibit violent behaviour even while being assessed, so additional treatment options are needed.”
The protocol will come into effect in early December.
In a statement to CTV News Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union president Michelle Gawronsky indicated there are limitations to olanzapine.
“Paramedics often find themselves in dangerous situations because of the increased use of meth in our communities. Like many other health care workers, they have been asking for tools to keep their patients, the public and themselves safe because of these dangers.
“This is a good tool to help deal with those who choose to accept taking this drug, but of course it cannot help in cases where patients are already experiencing psychosis and refuse to take it. That’s often the situation paramedics find themselves in during the course of these encounters: these patients are irrational and are often violent,” she said.
With a file from CTV's Beth Macdonell