Since the start of COVID-19 pandemic, people who use substances, such as opioids, methamphetamine and cocaine, are experiencing higher rates of fatal overdoses and deaths.
Public Health Agency of Canada’s published data revealed that 1,628 opioid toxicity deaths occured between April and June 2020. This number represented the highest count since national surveillance began in 2016. There was a 58% increase compared to January to March 2020 ( 1,029 deaths) and 54% increase from the same time frame in 2019 ( 1,059 deaths). According to the research, 97% of apparent opioid toxicity deaths were accidental.
At least 5 provinces and territories reported record-breaking numbers of deaths in April to June 2020. Between January and June 2020, 86% of all opioid deaths occured in British Columbia, Alberta or Ontario.
According to the Ontario Ministry of Health, $174 million funding was announced for mental health and addiction support for 2019-2020. The government had announced that the funding would go toward child and youth communities, housing, consumption treatment services, health programs, education, mental health support, additional hospital capacity, senior mental health education, and more. This has been part of the longstanding commitment of investing $3.8 billion over 10 years in mental health and addiction services.
According to the Government of Canada, middle-aged men continue to be the most impacted. There were 73% of EMS responses to opioid overdoses between January to June 2020 for males and 77% of those males were between 20 and 49 years.
The pandemic has been a major contributing factor in opioid overdose and deaths when looking at the data. According to Public Health Ontario, the number of opioid-related deaths increased by 38% in the first 15 weeks of the Covid-19 pandemic. There were an average of 46 deaths weekly.
In November 2020, a sign welcoming drivers to Toronto which used to say “ Welcome to Toronto. Ontario’s Capital.” was altered to say “ Ontario’s capital in overdose deaths,” City News had reported.
According to the report, the chief coroner’s office estimated 50 to 80 people dying of overdoses in Ontario per week.
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