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Sharp rise in OD deaths demand better policies for those in their 20s, 30s: study

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A new study calls for targeted harm-reduction policies after finding a quarter of deaths among people in their 20s and 30s were due to opioids in 2021.

Researchers from the University of Toronto say the annual number of opioid-related deaths doubled in Canada to 6,200 between 2019 and the end of 2021.

They note dramatic increases among 30-year-olds on the Prairies — rising five-fold in Manitoba, nearly tripling in Saskatchewan and jumping more than two-and-a-half times in Alberta.

Researchers note the surge coincided with pandemic public health measures that reduced access to harm reduction programs and imposed border restrictions that may have increased toxicity in the drug supply.

Senior author Tara Gomes says the sharp increase suggests provinces must act faster to address overdose deaths.

Researchers also analyzed accidental opioid-related fatalities in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, as well as the Northwest Territories.

The study was published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 15, 2024.

Canadian Press health coverage receives support through a partnership with the Canadian Medical Association. CP is solely responsible for this content.

Tanya Hornbuckle holds a photo of her son Joel Wolstenholme, who fatally overdosed at his home in Edmonton on Feb. 6, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout

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