Saturday , 15 May 2021
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Opioid deaths “reaching record levels” in last 3 months

More Albertans have died from opioids since April than COVID-19, a new report shows.

On Wednesday, the Alberta COVID-19 Response Surveillence Report said from April to June, 301 individuals died of unintentional opioid poisoning, with a total of 449 people dying this year alone.

That’s an increase of over 100 deaths from the same timeframe as 2019, and dwarfs the 260 fatalities said to be caused from novel coronavirus in the province.

The report concludes that 92 per cent of these opioid deaths are the result of a fentanyl overdose.

The reason the government says was fewer people using treatment services during the pandemic.

“Beginning in March 2020, the number of harms associated with opioid use began to increase significantly, reaching record levels not previously seen,” the report said. “This sharp rise was in conjunction with a decrease in the utilization of treatment and harm reduction services.”

There was a stark drop in treatment from 86 per cent in March to 52.6 per cent in April, before returning to to similar levels in June.

“The past few months have led to increased fear and anxiety, isolation, disruption to in-person services, job uncertainty and more. This has exacerbated the struggles of many Albertans, including those struggling with substance use,” said Jason Luan, minister of mental health and addictions in a press release Wednesday.

“As we move forward, it is more important than ever to continue to ensure every Albertan who needs it can find help and be supported on their path to long-term recovery.”

Eighty-two per cent of these deaths happened in large urban centres, the report found.
Opioids were directly involved in 80 per cent of unintentional drug and alcohol poisoning deaths in 2020 so far.
The full report can be read here.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.