A new report reveals that deadly opioid overdoses were up 75% following the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 when compared to deaths the year prior.
The report which was published by the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network through Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital revealed that 2,050 people died of opioid overdoses between March and December 2020.
In comparison, 1,162 people died from opioid overdoses over the same time period in 2019.
“It’s alarming because these increases in overdose deaths are continuing unabated,” report co-author Tara Gomes told CP24.
According to Gomes, the COVID-19 pandemic is a contributing factor to the spike in deadly overdoses.
“The COVID 19 pandemic has really accelerated the rate at which fatal opioid overdoses are occurring across the province,” Gomes said.
“This is in part due to an increasingly unpredictable drug supply that is contaminated and highly toxic, but also the changes in access to health-care services, as well as the places where people are living, and the lack of support that people have now in the community.”
The report also noted that the deadly and highly potent synthetic opioid fentanyl has played a bigger role in the number of deaths reported as of late. As noted in the study, fentanyl played a role in 87% of all opioid deaths whereas in 2019 the deadly drug was detected in only 75% of cases.
People between the ages of 25 to 44 seem to be most affected by the increase in deadly overdoses with 1,109 deaths reported in that age group.
Ontario’s homeless population has also been heavily impacted by the drug crisis with 323 deaths reported in 2020 compared to 135 deaths recorded the year prior.
The study seems to reinforce prior reports of opioid overdoses in the province. In November, Public Health Ontario reported that in the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, 695 people had died of opioid-related deaths.
The findings revealed a 38% increase when compared to the 15 weeks immediately before the pandemic.