A virtual reality simulation developed by CAMH that teaches members of the public how to administer Naloxone to save the life of someone suffering from an opioid overdose is now available to the public.
Developed by the CAMH Simulation Centre in response to an overdose crisis that continues to kill 20 Canadians a day on average, the opioid overdose virtual reality training course depicts real-world scenarios of opioid overdoses in a video game desktop format. The object of the ‘game’ is to learn how to administer naloxone to someone who is unconscious with a life-threatening opioid overdose in time to revive them.
“Reversing an opioid overdose with naloxone is so simple that there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t know how to do it,” says Dr. Petal Abdool, Medical Director of the CAMH Simulation Centre. “Naloxone is actually easier to use than an Epipen (that reverses peanut allergies), but because of the fear and stigma related to opioid overdoses, we don’t learn how. We fear what we don’t understand and this education and training simulation was created to diminish that fear. For example, many people do not know that administering naloxone will not cause any harm to the unconscious person, even if it is given to someone who is passed out but is not experiencing an opioid overdose.”
“By simplifying the steps and reducing the stigma making this as easily accessible as a video game, it will give people the confidence to administer a naloxone dose themselves even if they have no clinical background,” says CAMH addiction psychiatrist Dr. Ahmed Hassan, who was the content advisor. “Just half an hour or so and you can learn how to save a life.”
The development of the patient and trauma-informed virtual reality simulation came out of the realization that there was a need within CAMH for opportunities to practice how to respond to a patient opioid overdose. That led to the development of the virtual reality simulation that is available to CAMH staff who can book an appointment to try it with a specially designed headset at the simulation centre.
The desktop version was designed to provide all Canadians the opportunity to learn how to save someone from dying of an overdose. In the simulation, a community scenario is presented in which someone in the bedroom of house is found unconscious from an opioid overdose and the person doing the simulation is presented multiple choice questions about what steps to take and is guided through the process, starting with how to determine if the person is unconscious rather than sleeping and to look for signs of potentially fatal overdose in the pupils or on the lips and fingernails of the unconscious person. That is followed by instructions for administering the nasal spray of naloxone and how to talk to someone immediately after they have been revived, when the patient can be confused, agitated or worried about police intervention following a 911 call. There is a clock that tracks how much time it takes for you to complete the steps to reverse an overdose, and users can repeat the exercise as many times as they like to reduce the time it takes to revive the unconscious person.
To ensure the simulation was trauma and patient informed, the CAMH team developed this training with people with lived experience of opioid drug use, including Ashley Smoke, a member of the CAMH lived experience advisory committee, who has lived experience of opioid addiction and has administered naloxone to reverse overdoses on many occasions in recent years.
“I could tell right away that this was not a box-ticking exercise,” says Smoke about her advisory work with the CAMH Simulation Centre team. “They trusted us and they really listened to our stories. If they didn’t know something, they would look to us for answers. It was a really good engagement experience.”
“Before I took this training I had never carried a naloxone kit,” says Stephanie Sliekers, Manager of Simulation and Digital Innovation at CAMH. “It was so simple to learn that now that I have had this training, I feel an ethical responsibility as a citizen to carry it and be prepared to use it. If I were to see someone on the street who didn’t look conscious, I will want to see if it is an overdose situation. I can’t just walk away from that now.”
To try out the virtual reality simulation yourself, click here and follow the steps.