A new Public Health Ontario report has revealed a shocking spike in opioid-related deaths since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“In the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, 695 people died of a confirmed or suspected opioid-related death, representing a 38% increase compared to the 15 weeks immediately preceding the pandemic,” the report reads.
“During the pandemic, fentanyl and stimulants (particularly cocaine) were more commonly direct contributors to these deaths.”
Projections indicate that there will be a record 2,200 deaths by opioid abuse in 2020 if the weekly rate continues until the end of the year. In 2019, Ontario reported 1,512 opioid overdose deaths.
“The report shows an increasing number of preventable opioid-related deaths during the pandemic, particularly among young men. It must not be forgotten that each of these deaths represents the loss of an individual who was part of a family, had friends and was a member of a community,” said Chief Coroner for Ontario Dr. Dirk Huyer.
“There is a need to continue to work together to ensure adequate support and services are in place during the pandemic and beyond, to prevent further deaths.”
Other regions in Canada have seen a worrying uptick in opioid-related overdoses throughout the pandemic.
In its annual report, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) stated, “Jurisdictions across the country have reported increases in overdose deaths and non-fatal harms related to opioids and other substances, in part due to increasing toxicity of the illegal drug supply since the start of the pandemic.”
According to PHAC data, British Columbia saw over 100 overdose deaths each month from March to August 2020.