Canadian Opioid Overdose Deaths May Top 4,000 This Year

Western provinces and territories continue to report higher rates of opioid-related deaths, and the data show fentanyl continues to be a growing problem in this crisis. From January to June 2017, 74 percent of apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, compared to 53 percent during 2016.

New preliminary data released Dec. 18 by the Public Health Agency of Canada show that the opioid epidemic in Canada is getting worse "despite the efforts from all levels of government and partners to reverse the trend," Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and co-chair of the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, and Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health and the special advisory committee's other co-chair, said.

In a Dec. 18 statement, they said available data from 10 provinces and territories indicate at least 1,460 people died of opioid-related overdoses during the first half of 2017, but the number of deaths for both the first and second quarters of 2017 is expected to increase as additional data become available. "Tragically, if current trends continue, we may see more than 4,000 deaths in 2017," they said.

The provinces, territories, and federal government have worked collaboratively since December 2016 to collect and share data on opioid-related mortality.

Western provinces and territories continue to report higher rates of opioid-related deaths, and the data show fentanyl continues to be a growing problem in this crisis. From January to June 2017, 74 percent of apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogs, compared to 53 percent during 2016.

"We are acutely aware of the urgent need to work collaboratively to reduce opioid-related deaths and prevent future tragedies like those represented in the data released today," they said. "We are working together on a special study to better understand the context of opioid-related deaths, as well as initiatives to advance harm reduction approaches and support prevention efforts through linkages with local public health, municipal and public safety officials. The provinces, territories and federal government are committed to working together through the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses to advance efforts to reduce opioid-related deaths and harms."

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