Ottawa Public Health is trying to reduce drug overdose deaths by handing out special devices to addicts and their friends.

Similar to an EpiPen, the Peer Overdose Prevention Program (POPP) device works by injecting a drug called naloxone to reverse certain types of overdoses.

“It’s a new program to make sure there’s an antidote out there to counteract the effects of opiods – heroin, morphine, OxyContin or fentanyl,” said Dr. Vera Etches of Ottawa Public Health.

“It buys time before the people can have the first responders arrive.”

Sean Leblanc is one of about a dozen drug users trained in the POPP so far, explaining he’s seen a friend die, witnessed half a dozen overdoses and gone through one himself.

“My friends did the right thing, made sure my airways were clean and called 911 . . . by God’s graces I’m here today,” he said.

“The training took 40 minutes tops and now I’m qualified to save somebody, potentially.”

There are between 3,000 and 4,000 drug users in the Ottawa area, with 30 to 40 dying each year from drug overdoses.

Rob Boyd works with at-risk clients out of the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre and said he’s convinced the number of people trained will grow.

“The community does want to take care of each other and take care of themselves,” he said.

A man in his early 20s overdosed and died alone in the bathroom of his Ottawa apartment last week, a death health officials said probably would have been prevented had a POPP device been nearby.

The devices are available for free out of a clinic in downtown Ottawa, with funding coming from the province.

Each device costs around $10.

With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Joanne Schnurr