More than 11,500 people have died in the last three years in an opioid crisis that will not abate in Canada, according to new government data.
One life was lost every two hours in 2018 because of opioids, totaling 4,460 dead, up from 4,100 in 2017 and 3,017 in 2016.
“Canada continues to experience a serious opioid crisis,” said the Public Health Agency of Canada report. “Across the country, it is having devastating effects on families and communities.”
Most of the deaths -- 94 per cent or nearly 4,200 -- in 2018 were deemed accidental. Fentanyl was to blame for 73 per cent of those deaths, the report said. Three-quarters of the victims were men and the vast majority were young and middle-aged adults. But the crisis has affected “Canadians from all walks of life,” the report added.
The data, which is updated four times a year, is broken down by province, emphasizing the widespread impact. No other region has been harder hit than Western Canada, where British Columbia has seen more than 1,000 opioid-related deaths each year since 2016.
The report stressed the fact that the vast majority of deaths were unintentional.
“This distinction is important to inform an appropriate public health response,” the report said. “The high percent of unintended deaths reinforces the concern that a variety of street drugs are tainted with toxic substances, such as fentanyl, without the knowledge of the people consuming them.”
National data show that opioid-related deaths in Canada remain high. We must continue to address the #OpioidCrisis by improving access to #HarmReduction services, raising awareness of the risks of opioids, and removing barriers to treatment. https://t.co/xN9EegPig7 pic.twitter.com/mEpUEm4Cpt— GovCanHealth (@GovCanHealth) June 13, 2019