Health Care

Over 2800 deaths a year ago linked to opioids, hospitalizations also on rise

Over 2800 deaths a year ago linked to opioids, hospitalizations also on rise”

Regina and Saskatoon have the highest rates of hospitalizations for significant opioid poisoning among Prairie cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

"Tragically, in 2016, we estimate there were about 2,500 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, which is greater than the number of Canadians who died at the height of the HIV epidemic in 1995", said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, in the report.

And Alberta isn't alone - nationally, the rate of hospitalizations from opioid overdoses jumped 53 per cent in the last decade. The figures do not include people treated in emergency departments and sent home. "That's an age group that is prescribed relatively few opioids".

"We're also seeing that this is not a crisis involving only opioids".

From 2016-2017, CIHI said more than half of hospitalizations for opioid poisonings were considered accidental while one-third were self-inflicted harm.

The CIHI report also reveals that the crisis is much more than just a big city phenomenon.

Hospitalization rates from opioid use vary in each province and territory, but from 2016-2017, Northern and Western areas have had higher rates than Eastern Canada.

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"But we are starting to see in 2016 that we had our first small number of deaths. where illicit fentanyl was part of the picture", he said of Nova Scotia.

Michael Parkinson, a community engagement co-ordinator with the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, speculated that hospitals in smaller, more remote communities may be admitting more patients because the overdose antidote naloxone might not be as readily available or it could take longer for ambulances to reach victims.

"It gives you a sense for where you may need to target strategies", he said. The rate was 36.3 per 100,000 population.

Provincially, Alberta's rate in 2016-17 was 88.6 per 100,000 compared to Ontario at 34.6 per 100,000.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information study - which measured rates of emergency room visits as well as hospitalizations from opioid overdoses across Canada - highlighted an ongoing public health crisis.

The CIHI report showed adults aged 45 to 64 and seniors 65 and older had the highest rates of hospital admissions for opioid toxicity over the last 10 years, but the fastest-growing rate was for youth and young adults aged 15 to 24.

Gaucher said generally, factors could include the difference in opioid prescription patterns and the availability of opioids on the streets. That was down from 277 in 2015-16, but more than the 222 in 2014-15.

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