Opioid overdoses claim over 9,000 Canadian lives in less than three years

The opioid epidemic in Canada is continuing to devastate communities and families by claiming thousands of lives a year, according to recently released statistics.

Data released on Wednesday from the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) stated that more than 9,000 Canadians died as the result of apparent opioid-related overdoses between January 2016 and June 2018.  Of those, 2,000 people died in the first half of 2018 alone, and 94 percent were the result of accidental opioid-related overdoses. Almost three quarters (72%) of those who accidently overdosed came into contact with fentanyl-related substances.

The PHAC said most accidental apparent opioid-related deaths were among young and middle-aged adults, with the largest affected demographic being those between the ages of 30 and 39 (27 per cent).

“The data released today represents individuals who have lost their lives, loved ones who have left behind families, communities, and others who may be struggling with problematic substance use themselves. These numbers are heartbreaking. One death is too many in this tragedy,” said federal Minister of Health Ginette Petitpas Taylor. “The data released today will help us to continue to develop strategies to reduce deaths and to better inform public health interventions and policies for us all.”

An average of 17 Canadians were hospitalized every day in 2017 due to opioid poisoning, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information, which is an increase from 16 per day in 2016. Ontario also saw a 73 per cent increase in emergency department visits due to opioid poisoning in 2017 compared to the previous year.

As well, there has been a 27% increase in hospitalizations due to opioid-related poisonings over the past five years. In 2017, smaller communities with a population between 50,000 and 100,000 saw hospitalization rates sore 2.5 times higher than larger cities in Canada.

The dramatic rise in substance-related deaths, including opioid-related deaths, has also affected life expectancy at birth in Canada. The country’s life expectancy increased by almost three years between 2000 and 2016, but it has since slowed its progress due to the impact of opioid overdoses.

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