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Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for a suspected opioid overdose

Some people won’t call 9-1-1, even if a friend or loved one is suffering the effects of an opioid overdose, fearing they may get into trouble.
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The Province of British Columbia has proclaimed April 10 -16 as Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week and BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) wants to emphasize the importance of knowing when to call 9-1-1. 

In cases with suspected opioid overdose you should call 9-1-1 immediately.

“Overdoses can happen to anyone. The lives at risk may be your neighbours, friends or family members,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Untreated overdoses can result in death or permanent impairment and are preventable with timely treatment that begins by calling 9-1-1.”   

In 2015, BCEHS responded to more than 12,200 suspected drug overdose/poisoning incidents.  However, we know many additional overdoses remain unreported due to false fears of repercussion. 

“When someone calls 9-1-1 about a suspected overdose, our priority is getting the most appropriate medical care to the patient as soon as possible,” said BCEHS Chief Operating Officer Jodi Jensen. “We are not here to pass judgement or get anyone in trouble; we are here to help save a life.” 

While dispatchers often notify police of a suspected overdose, the presence of the police is to ensure the safety of bystanders and the responding paramedics. 

BCEHS dispatchers do not regularly share callers’ information with law enforcement agencies.

What symptoms should you look for if you suspect someone has overdosed? 

  • Is their breathing altered? 
  • Has their colour changed to an ashen or grayish tone? 
  • Are they unresponsive? 

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical assistance. 

What types of questions will dispatchers ask?

  • Was this accidental? 
  • Is the patient alert? 
  • Could the patient be violent? 
  • Where is the patient now? 
  • What did they take?
  • Is the patient breathing normally? 

What won’t dispatchers ask? 

  • Your name or the patient’s name,
  • Your home address or other identifying information (unless required for scene response),
  • Where narcotics were purchased.   

Facts and Tips about calling 9-1-1

  • April 10-16, 2016 has been proclaimed Emergency Service Dispatchers’ and 9-1-1 Awareness Week by the Province of British Columbia.
  • 9-1-1 is for police, fire or medical emergencies when immediate action is required: someone’s health, safety or property is in jeopardy or a crime is in progress.
  • Calling 9-1-1 for a non-emergency situation ties up important lifelines meant for people or property in immediate jeopardy or when there is a crime in progress.
  • Help us keep 9-1-1 lines free for emergencies that require immediate action. Visit to learn more and find local non-emergency numbers
  • For non-emergency medical situations or for medical advice, call 8-1-1 to speak with a health care professional 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

About BCEHS BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is responsible for the delivery and governance of pre-hospital emergency medical care and inter-facility patient transfer services through the BC Ambulance Service and the BC Patient Transfer Network. BCEHS​

Media contact:
Fatima Siddiqui
BC Emergency Health Services

addiction; BC Ambulance Service; BCEHS; Substance use
SOURCE: Don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 for a suspected opioid overdose ( )
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