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Canada is currently plagued by an opioid crisis. Opioids such as fentanyl are drugs that are commonly used to relieve pain. These drugs, however, can be extremely addictive and their misuse has led to thousands of overdoses and deaths.

In 2017, 88 Hamilton residents died from opioid overdoses. So far into this year, Hamilton Paramedic Services has already responded to 161 incidents of suspected opioid overdoses. In comparison to other cities within the province, Hamilton has the highest opioid-related death rate.

While there is no publicly available data on the demographics of opioid use in Hamilton, in general, young adults aged 18 to 25 are the most vulnerable to opioid misuse. As the rate of opioid misuse increases annually, it is imperative that students are aware of the availability of naloxone.

Naloxone is a fast-acting drug that temporarily reverses the effects of opioid overdoses until medical emergency services can arrive. As of March 2019, Public Health and the Naloxone Expansion Sites in Hamilton have distributed 2496 doses of naloxone, with 285 people reported as being revived by the drug.  

McMaster University’s student-led Emergency First Response Team and McMaster University security officers carry and are trained to use naloxone nasal kits in case of emergency situations. While Mac’s security officers only recently began to carry the kits, EFRT responders have been carrying them since August 2017.

Fortunately, EFRT has not had to use any of their kits since they began carrying them. While this may imply that opioid-related overdoses have not occurred on campus, this does not guarantee that students are not at risk at opioid misuse.

As EFRT responders and McMaster security cannot always be available to respond to students’ needs off-campus, students should be more aware of their ability to carry and be trained to use naloxone kits.

While the Student Wellness Centre does not carry the free naloxone kit, the McMaster University Centre Pharmasave located within the McMaster University Student Centre does, in addition to the Shoppers Drug Mart pharmacies located near campus. To obtain a kit, all students must do is show their Ontario health card.

The fact that this life-saving drug is so readily available to students on and near campus is amazing. It is disappointing then that the university hasn’t done a sufficient job in advertising this information to students.

Students should be given naloxone kits and mandatory opioid information and response training at the beginning of the academic term. At the very least, this information can be distributed during Welcome Week along with other orientation events.

The opioid crisis is one that affects us all, especially here in Hamilton. McMaster University should help fight this crisis by ensuring that their students are equipped with the knowledge to recognize an opioid overdose and have the necessary tools to help reverse them.


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By: Lauren Olsen

Last January, McMaster University’s president Patrick Deane took a stand and banned all forms of smoking on school grounds, making McMaster Ontario's first 100 per cent tobacco and smoke free campus. This included banning the on-campus use of cigarettes, cigars, hookah, pot and most importantly, the ever-popular vape pens.

The ban on campus was a welcome sight for those opposed to tobacco, however, the ineffectiveness of enforcing this policy rendered the ban as a bland suggestion rather than a legitimate rule.

You can witness this phenomenon simply by walking around campus. You won’t make it far before encountering students vaping in direct violation of the McMaster ‘ban’, with their discretion being non-existent. Students can be found vaping in classrooms, lecture halls, residences and around campus.

Recently, there was an opening of the 180 Smoke Vape Shop in Westdale which will only further support and make accessible the habits of smokers. The store offers everything including e-cigarettes, vape juice, pens and portable vaporizers, and is located just a short walk from McMaster University.  

They are attracting not only smokers who may be trying to quit, but others who lack the proper information about the hazards associated with vaping, and may only be concerned with becoming part of the current trend. They are promoting this product as a commercialized, socially-acceptable activity rather than a helpful addiction quitting strategy for tobacco smokers.

For McMaster students, it’s just a short stroll to a readily-available addiction which is now a booming industry. According to BBC News, the number of vapers has increased rapidly from about seven million in 2011 to 35 million in 2016. The global vaping products market is now estimated to be worth up to $22.6 billion USD.

The rapid growth of the industry is not a victimless development. New products need new users and stores like 180 Smoke Vape Shop will likely be getting their customer base from McMaster.  

Other than perpetuating the ‘look’ and fueling the industry, students are playing with fire and risking addiction. Although e-cigarettes do not contain any tar, carbon monoxide or other chemicals found in tobacco smoke, they still mimic the familiar action of a smoker and can be addictive. What used to be a method to quit is now becoming a method to start, and making smoking acceptable again.

The smoking population who are slowly cutting back their nicotine addiction to quit smoking have made way for the young adults who are peer-pressured by the new “cool” thing to do and, in turn, are becoming dependent on the addictive drug.

Harvard Health Publishing describes the side effects of vaping to include the potential of diabetes, loss of impulse control, impairment of brain development and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. Thus, the antidote is quickly becoming the poison.

I am not advocating that McMaster shutdown 180 Smoke Vape Shop, or campaign to influence public policy. Rather, the university should enforce the very rule they promised in early 2018, in order to make McMaster a safer environment and community.

Creating a ban was a novel idea, but not following is more than just lazy enforcement — it is potentially dangerous to student health.

More and more youth will be exposed and persuaded to try vaping, which easily perpetuates an addiction whose lasting health implications are still being determined. Moreover, the campus itself is not an inviting space with smoke billowing from its hallways and paths. It’s time to inhale the future and start enforcing the smoking ban on campus.


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Amid the opioid crisis, organizations on campus have been working to make naloxone, a drug that reverses the effects of an opiate overdose, more accessible to students and the community.

Currently, McMaster students who are not at risk of an overdose are unable to pick up a free naloxone kit anywhere on campus. The pharmacy in the McMaster University Student Centre and Student Wellness Centre do not carry the kit as a result of logistical issues.

McMaster students can pick up a naloxone kit at the Shoppers Drug Mart on Main Street West, but they need to disclose their Ontario Health Insurance Plan number to get one for free.

Students can also get a kit from Hamilton Public Health, but only if they meet the city’s eligibility guidelines, which specify that kits can only be provided to individuals who have experience with opioid use or are at high risk of overdose.

“Eligibility guidelines are in place as a means to ensure that naloxone kits are available for those who are most impacted by overdose,” said Sharalyn Penner-Cloutier, temporary supervisor of harm reduction at Hamilton Public Health.

However, groups on campus have been working to ensure that naloxone is available at the university.

“As a whole, we advocate for the concept of accessible naloxone kits, and having them available on campus to students in addition to EFRT responders would certainly be valuable.”


Sutina Chou
Student Health Education Centre

The McMaster Students Union Emergency First Response Team stocked up on naloxone in September 2017, obtaining both the injection and nasal spray version.

“As of yet, we have not had to administer naloxone but we continue to practice our protocol in the event that we ever encounter an opioid overdose,” said Dunavan Morris-Janzen, EFRT Public Relations Coordinator.

According to Glenn De Caire, director of security and parking, McMaster Security has been working to ensure that security special constables will carry the drug on duty by April 2018.

In November 2017, MSU Student Health Education Centre spearheaded a harm reduction campaign. One of their pillars aimed at educating students on the signs of opiate overdose and where they can pick up a naloxone kit close to the university.

“As a whole, we advocate for the concept of accessible naloxone kits, and having them available on campus to students in addition to EFRT responders would certainly be valuable,” said Sutina Chou, SHEC coordinator.

More recently, on Jan. 22, the McMaster Undergraduate Nursing Student Society hosted a free naloxone training event for nursing students in the Michael DeGroote Centre for Learning and Discovery building.

The event was organized by the MUNSS after Sarah Vance, one of the group’s Education Chairpersons, identified that hundreds students were interested in a naloxone training event hosted by the Mental Health Rights Coalition in Hamilton, which took place on Jan. 24 and was facilitated by Hamilton Public Health.

“After seeing [the high demand for the event], I called Hamilton Public Health and the Harm Reduction Team and was given contact information for Margot Corbin, the Public Health Nurse. This training was free from Public Health,” said Vance.

The MUNSS’s event consisted of a discussion on the opioid epidemic, signs of overdose and how students are able to assist in a civilian capacity.

“The turnout for the event was successful. We had requests for attendance from various faculties such as BScN, RPN to BScN, RPN, and Medicine. We even had requests for attendance from students who did not attend McMaster, Mohawk or Conestoga,” said Vance.

The MUNSS will be hosting another training event on Feb. 26 in MDCL.

Opioid use continues to be on the rise in Hamilton, with our rate of use still being higher that of the province. Nevertheless, campus groups are educating students about naloxone and fighting to end the epidemic.

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"Carrying over 50 personal health and care products, these touch-screen vending machines have been placed in Mary Keyes Residence and the Commons Building."

Read the full article here:

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By: Michal Coret/ SHEC

University students are recommended to sleep seven to nine hours a night. Ha! That’s funny. Thanks, science. With increasing sleep debts due to schoolwork, social life and other obligations, many of us turn to caffeine as a solution to stay awake. Caffeine is the most popular substance on university campuses, and also worldwide, with approximately 70 percent of university students addicted.

So how much is too much? The maximum daily caffeine intake is often cited as 400 mg. An eight-ounce cup of coffee, depending on its intensity, can contain 40-200 mg of caffeine. When consumed within this margin, caffeine improves attention, memory, wakefulness, reaction time and athletic performance for some. Additional evidence suggests that that caffeine, in moderation, has positive effects on mood, and may play a role in weight loss. Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, many coffee drinkers exceed this safety margin. Two cups is just with breakfast. Almost unconsciously, another three or four may be consumed to stay awake during lectures, meetings and assignments. But what are the consequences? Most of the detrimental effects of caffeine are long-term. These include heart problems, deteriorated bone health and even diabetes.

Caffeine may also have effects on the dopaminergic reward system of the brain. This is a pathway involved in drug addiction and a possible explanation for why coffee is so addictive. Withdrawal symptoms (which might appear all too familiar) include sleepiness, poor concentration, headaches and nausea. Studies done specifically on undergraduate students showed that those who drink over six cups of coffee a day sleep significantly fewer hours than their peers. It seems to be a vicious cycle.

Another consideration is that brain development related to planning and emotional control is also critical in the early 20s. Caffeine may have an adverse impact on how these brain functions develop and lead to long-term cognitive changes.

If one were to try the daunting task of leaving coffee behind, the best way to start is a gradual reduction in daily amounts of coffee. This, combined with caffeine alternatives may effectively promote long-term caffeine reduction. If you’re going for a cleanse, cold water and stretching are also good options.

But let’s not paint such a dark (roast) picture of coffee consumption. The bottom line is that caffeine — like most things in life — is best in moderation. If you are drinking three or more cups of coffee a day, running to the washroom frequently and/or wanting to reduce caffeine, there may be merit in evaluating your daily schedule and priorities to see what can be changed. Also, stress is a major hindrance to sleep. In days when sleep seems far away, considering various outlets for stress can improve your nighttime zzzs.

Caffeine alternatives

Green Tea

The most well known alternative has less caffeine than coffee and contains catechin, an antioxidant and disease fighter.

Licorice Tea

This caffeine free tea also replenishes adrenal glands, organs that respond to stress.

Prune Juice

Need something sweet? Prunes replenish your electrolytes, which can lead to increased stamina.

Chai Tea

A creamy chai tea latte will trick your body into thinking that you’re drinking coffee.

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By: Sunanna Bhasin/Opinions Columnist

I remember heading to a sports tournament with friends a few years ago and having our taxi driver educate us on what drunk driving looked like. He pointed out one car in particular, just a few metres ahead of us. It was weaving in and out of its lane in an unpredictable pattern, travelling at relatively high speeds and the driver never signalled when switching lanes. I was shocked that the driver was drunk or severely impaired, but I was sure that he or she would be pulled over as soon as a cop caught sight of the sign of reckless driving. What would follow would be a brief interrogation and a breathalyser test. If the blood alcohol content was found to be greater than 0.08 mg/ml, then it would be goodbye to the offender’s driver’s license.

It was that simple. However with the election of the Liberal government, it is a possibility that marijuana may be legalized in the near future. With legalization and easier access to the drug, there is the chance of an increase in driving under the influence involving pot. Yet, how can police monitor driving high when there is no efficient test currently available?

The interesting thing about cannabis is that its main ingredient, tetrahydrocannabinol — responsible for its psychological effects — can stay in the blood and urine days after ingestion. Unlike alcohol, which leaves the body before sobriety sets in, marijuana’s THC remains in the blood long after its effects have worn off. While taking a blood test can identify levels of active, or recently ingested THC, roadside blood tests are inefficient and time-consuming, not to mention expensive. In the time that it would take to conclude whether a driver is high, police could be missing those driving drunk. The question is should we be prioritizing one over the other?

The typical drunk driver exhibits three warning signs on the road: weaving within one lane weaving in and out of the lane and speeding. A high driver may weave within his or her lane but is less likely to display as extreme behaviour as a drunk driver. One may find reassurance in the fact that cannabis users are often aware of their impairment, and make conscious efforts to compensate for that on the road by keeping greater distances between themselves and other cars and driving more slowly. Drunk drivers, on the other hand, are often unaware of their inability to drive and do so anyway because of a false sense of confidence.

This does not make driving high less dangerous. Reaction time is affected in both cases, which can result in collisions and serious accidents. Because a stoned driver may not be displaying warning signs, the drivers around them might not realize that they should be concerned. The legalization of marijuana could add to the invisible threats drivers face daily. Surely, wrongly believing one is in control is worse than making the conscious effort to battle the impairment one is aware of being under when high.

The reality is that while both drunk and stoned drivers are a threat to road safety, so are distracted and tired drivers, and there are no tests to determine if someone is too overwhelmed with fatigue to be behind the wheel. The only way to prevent impaired driving is to continue advocating against it and educating the public on the risks. Given the research available, drunk drivers tend to do much more damage than stoned drivers, as there isn’t a clear positive correlation between traffic accidents and cannabis use, while there is a significant amount of evidence in regards to the risks of driving under the influence of alcohol. Finding a means to test for marijuana consumption would be wise nonetheless, but focusing on drunk drivers should remain the priority.

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