City's Mental Wellbeing Response Team uses Suboxone for opioid withdrawal

Two members of the Mental Wellness Response Team smiling in front of a Mental Wellness Response Team ambulance.

Mental Wellbeing Response Team paramedics are one of the first paramedic teams in Canada to administer Suboxone as a treatment option when responding to calls of suspected overdoses or withdrawal.

The Mental Wellbeing Response Team, a partnership between the Ottawa Paramedic Service and The Ottawa Hospital, is expanding its scope of practice and partnerships. Now, individuals assessed through the 9-1-1 system could be eligible for withdrawal symptom relief and new substance use referral pathways.

Ottawa, like many cities across the country, has seen an increase in opioid overdoses and the need for more addiction recovery and treatment options.

Buprenorphine/naloxone, also known as Suboxone, does not reverse an overdose. Rather, Suboxone relieves the uncomfortable and painful withdrawal symptoms experienced immediately after someone receives Naloxone or after hours to days of abstinence.

The Mental Wellbeing Response Team paramedic can treat with Suboxone while the mental health professional can connect someone with addictions and substance use resources through the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre and Ottawa Public Health for continued support. A visit to the Emergency Room is not required after receiving Suboxone, but may be recommended depending on the individual’s overall medical situation.

Within 24 hours of receiving Suboxone, an addictions specialist at the Royal Ottawa Rapid Access Addictions Medicine clinic checks in with the individual. At this follow-up, options for addiction treatment are offered and an individual care plan can be developed to guide their recovery journey. 

This treatment and referral approach to opioid addiction reduces individuals’ chances of overdosing again in the short-term and increases their chances of long-term recovery. By relieving the withdrawal symptoms experienced after a reversed overdose, Suboxone enables individuals to focus on improving their health and taking their next steps towards recovery.

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