Statistics Canada data uncovered a grim reality of Canadians dying from alcohol and drug abuse during the COVID pandemic.
Over the past few years, a record number of people died from alcohol-induced deaths. In 2020, the federal agency reported 3,790 alcohol-related deaths, and by 2021 that number had grown to 3,875.
"Alcohol-induced mortality also increased significantly throughout the pandemic," reads the report.
"The 18% increase from 2019 to 2020 was the largest year-over-year change in alcohol-induced deaths seen in at least the last 20 years."
Alcohol abuse hit Canadians under 65 the hardest, as deaths increased by 27% from 2019 to 2020.
Alcohol-induced mortality statistics include death by liver disease, accidental poisoning, intentional self-poisoning, pancreatitis, gastritis, and other related conditions.
Furthermore, fatal overdoses caused by unintentional poisoning of harmful substances like illegal drugs or prescription medicines spiked throughout the pandemic.
Alberta's data showed a rise in overdose deaths in 2020 during the pandemic.
In 2019, the province reported 677 deaths due to overdoses, which it calls "accidental poisoning by and exposure to drugs and other biological substances." The number rose to 920 in 2020.
A total of 4,605 people died from accidental poisonings in 2020; the following year, the number grew to 6,310.
Overdose deaths in British Columbia caused by illicit drugs reveal the province's struggles to combat opioid addiction coming to a head.
In the first nine months of 2022, 1,600 people died from illicit drug use in the first nine months of 2022, according to BC's Public Safety and Solicitor General.
"British Columbians are continuing to suffer the tragic effects of a toxic and volatile drug supply, with almost six members of our communities dying each day," said the province's chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, who pointed to fentanyl and the deadlier carfentanil as the biggest culprits of accidental overdoses.
Between March 2020 and August 2022, approximately 19% more deaths have occurred than customarily expected for Canadians under 45 in a typical year.
In June 2022, Statistics Canada released a report on the excess mortality among Canadians under 45 as 35.9% in Saskatchewan, 51.6% in Alberta, and 48.7% in BC.
Although the federal agency could not attribute the cause for the higher death rates, they said drug overdoses could be a factor.
A subsequent report on excess mortality dated December 8 uncovered an estimated 8,963 extra deaths that were not COVID-related between March 2020 and August 2022. The December report corroborated an earlier analysis, stating that other factors besides COVID are mainly responsible for the excess deaths.
"By August 2022, those younger than 65 years have accounted for just over 10% of the deaths attributed to COVID-19 but 30% of the excess deaths, suggesting that other factors are driving excess mortality among younger Canadians," reads the report.
While the federal agency did not articulate how many of the 8,963 non-COVID excess deaths could be attributed to drug or alcohol poisoning, the report detailed those deaths related to alcohol and drug use reached record highs during the pandemic.
Statistics Canada attributed 4,605 deaths to accidental poisoning and exposure to harmful substances in 2020 and 6,235 deaths in 2021, adding that Canadians should expect higher numbers after the revised data.
The agency said people under 45, which constitutes 55% of the country's population, account for 57% of deaths from overdoses. Before the pandemic, the height of the overdose crisis happened in 2017, when unintentional poisonings caused 4,830 deaths.
The report added that alcohol-induced mortality increased during the pandemic, rising from 3,200 deaths in 2019 to 3,790 in 2020 and 3,860 in 2021.