Adding evidence to the mounting public health crisis, an analysis showed that 13 people were hospitalized every day in Canada between 2014 and 2015 because of opioid poisoning.

Seniors accounted for a quarter of hospitalized overdoses.

The report found that in 2014-2015 4,779 people across Canada – or 13 a day on average – were hospitalized or taken to the emergency department because of an opioid overdose.

That’s up by more than 30 per cent since 2007-2008, according to the report from Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Canada is the second largest consumer of painkillers per capita and has the highest rate of prescription opioid use in the world.

The report found a third of overdoses were intentional while half were accidental, making this a costly and largely preventable problem.

The rise in overdoses and deaths linked to painkillers is an increasing public health issue in Canada, researchers said in the report.

Earlier this month during a visit to a mobile health unit, Health Minister Dr. Jane Philpott had said: “There’s a very serious concern across the country about opioids and the escalating numbers of opioid overdoses and deaths.”

Between 2009 and 2014 the high-dose opioid fentanyl was linked to 655 deaths and a further 1,019 deaths found the presence of fentanyl during the post-mortem toxicological screening, according to a study the report referenced.

Figures showed that seniors (adults over 65) were most likely to overdose on painkillers. About 20 in 100,000 were admitted to the hospital between 2014 and 2015, with more than 50 per cent of those cases being an accidental overdose.

“People don’t tend to think of seniors when they think about drug overdoses,” said Brent Diverty, vice president of Programs at CIHI. “Although there are many reasons for these hospitalizations, this report shows that Canada’s seniors are particularly vulnerable and may benefit from focused interventions.”

Youths between the ages of 15 to 24 were the fastest growing group. Reported opioid poisoning increased by 62 per cent during the eight-year period and the majority were intentional overdoses.

Figures also varied widely by province. Saskatchewan had the highest amount of reported overdose (20.5 per 100,000) while Quebec had the lowest with less than 10 per 100,000.




However, CCSA and CIHI point out that these figures are an underestimate as it only accounts for the cases that were treated in hospital.

“What’s worrisome is that these numbers don’t tell the full story, since some people die before reaching the hospital. This report is a great first step, but we still don’t have the complete picture on opioid poisonings in Canada,” said Diverty.

CCSA and CIHI recommends evidence-based strategies to reduce the risk of painkiller overdose, including prescription monitoring programs and increasing access to naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effect of an overdose.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) has already suggested restricting all high-dose opioid prescriptions to help address Canada’s painkiller problem.

Philpott told reporters earlier this month that: “The response to the crisis needs to be comprehensive. There’s no single solution that’s going to solve it.”

A national summit is being held later this week starting Nov. 18 in Ottawa to discuss possible solutions for the opioid crisis.

A review of the 2010 Canadian opioid guidelines is also currently being conducted, with the release of the new guidelines expected in 2017.