About two Albertans overdose each day: opioid update
Published Wednesday, May 8, 2019 6:00PM MDT
The latest data suggests opioid overdose deaths continue to rise, killing on average two Albertans per day.
The quarterly report to councillors on Wednesday showed overdose deaths have climbed every year since Alberta Health Services started collecting data in 2016: from 553 in 2016, to 706 in 2017, to 746 last year.
In Edmonton and Calgary, overdose deaths numbered 165 and 289, respectively, in 2018.
The numbers would be significantly higher without the province making 150,000 naloxone kits available as of March: “We’ve had almost 10,000 reversals,” Chris Sikora, AHS medical officer of health, told the community and public services committee.
However, the majority of deaths have involved fentanyl and represent a growing concern for those at Boyle Street Community Services.
“Technically people are injecting poison because we don't know what it is, we don't know what the adulterants are, and we're seeing the strengths increase,” said Erica Schoen, Boyle Street’s director of supervised consumption services.
“So even just the overdose responses that my staff are dealing with are becoming more severe.”
Last year, supervised consumption sites in Edmonton, Lethbridge and Calgary counted more than 200,000 visits, and 2,500 reversals.
As of April 21, the three sites in Edmonton—Boyle Street Community Services, Boyle McCauley Health Centre, and George Spady—counted 50,790 visits from 1,503 unique users. A total of 525 overdoses were reversed, while there were 26,700 referrals to other services.
To date, no one has died on a supervised consumption site in Alberta.
But Schoen believes the numbers of deaths across the province will continue to rise without other action on the opioid crisis.
“These are people, and it's devastating that we're losing people to something that's so preventable.”
Ward 10 Councillor Michael Walters echoed her concern.
“People are losing their lives, it's not enough for us to just get an update that tells us X number of people are dying. What can we be doing in addition to what's on the table now?” he asked.
A heat map in the report shows most deaths in Edmonton last year happened in the core, but also in several peripheral neighbourhoods.
With files from Jeremy Thompson