Opioids Are Now Killing More Than 11 People a Day in Canada

What’s a strong word than ‘crisis’?

According to a report released by a special federal advisory committee, more than 11 Canadians are being killed by opioids every single day.

“The crisis is not abating,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, in response to the figures. “The loss of life is tremendous and this national public health crisis continues to devastate the health and lives of many Canadians, their families and their communities.”

She also suggests a lack of awareness could be preventing urgency on the issue. “Our general population is not necessarily seeing the impact,” Dr. Tam said. And therein part of the reason we, a lifestyle publication, feel compelled to cover the topic.

From January through March of this year, there were 1,036 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada. That’s a five per cent increase compared to the previous year. There have now been more 8,000 deaths attributed to opioids since 2016. Around 94 per cent of all deaths are considered accidental, unintentional, or overdoses. The most lethal drug is fentanyl, which is responsible for around 70 per cent of deaths.

Now two years into the crisis, experts are still searching for solutions. “There is no silver-bullet solution when it comes to the opioid crisis,” said Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor.

The problem is many opioids are legally prescribed (decriminalizing all drugs, as some politicians suggest, won’t work). And while it’s not easy to score a fentanyl prescription from your doctor, lesser potent opioids are being marketed far too nonchalantly and can serve as a gateway to more dangerous substances.

To date, supervised consumption sites seem to provide the most effective antidote. “From our perspective, safe-consumption sites work and they save lives,” said Dr. Tam.

Canada is the world’s second highest per-capita consumer of opioids, trailing only the United States.