Digital Overdose Response System in Alberta

An image of the Digital Overdose Response System app that is currently available on all mobile devices.

The government of Alberta has recently launched a new app called the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) in hopes that it will help prevent drug overdoses.

In 2020, Alberta opioid surveillance showed that 70 per cent of all opioid overdoses took place in the users private residence. The app works as somewhat of a timer, so that if an individual plans to use opioids, they check in with the timer on their phone. If they do not respond within a given time, then STARS is contacted through the app and can further contact medical assistance.

As of this time, there are a reported 650 people who have registered with the app, though there is no confirmed data to show if the app is working as intended.

“ There are data issues and there’s no indication that the app is actually working,” said Dan Houston, professor of medicine at the University of Alberta.

“As an organization, we are hoping that this app will help save hundreds of people and that it will spread an overall message to addicts that they are not alone in their fight. I personally believe this app will be able to assist many people, provided we can get them all to sign up for it,” said Amy, a STARS emergency phone operator.

Between January and August of 2021, more than 1,000 Albertans died from drug poisoning related deaths. This is an increase of 30 per cent from 2020. There has been controversy throughout the province as to whether or not the app is going to work and if addicts will feel comfortable enough to register for this kind of system.

“Most of our patients at SAFPC have had issues with drug use and addictions in the past. It is a very delicate subject for people, and many do not feel comfortable talking about their history with drugs. I’m not sure if this new app is going to be helpful, as I don’t think many addicts would really be concerned with downloading or using the app,” said Megan Mutzeneek, registered nurse at the Southern Alberta Forensic Psychiatry Center.

This has been a common thought that medical professionals are having around the province, as many believe the app will not help many people. Last week, the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association were raising their concerns over the Province’s overall response to the opioid crisis.

As an organization, we are hoping that this app will help save hundreds of people, and that it will spread an overall message to addicts that they are not alone in their fight.  – Amy P.

They believe that the provinces plans to combat addiction are distinctly lacking, as they stated that “addiction involves more than just opioid use and includes many other substances and processes.”

The city of Edmonton has also recently handed out 1,500 nasal naloxone kits, which are used to treat opioid overdoses. This is a part of a $1.5 million pilot project. Edmonton is currently the first and only city where people can access publicly funded nasal naloxone kits. It is speculated that the city of Calgary will also join Edmonton with the nasal naloxone kits, as well as with other safety measures.

The government of Alberta has more plans set in place to assist addicts in their recovery and to ensure that there is a higher level of safety for them in the future.

About Ewan Kennedy 4 Articles
As a news reporting and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Ewan Kennedy worked as a writer for The Press in 2022.