Opioids killed over 8,000 Canadians last year, says federal health agency

Opioid-related deaths first rose in 2016, but took a devastating turn in 2020, said the Public Health Agency of Canada. At least 8,049 Canadians died from opioid use last year.

Opioids killed over 8,000 Canadians last year, says federal health agency
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Canada’s opioid crisis cost 22 people their lives daily last year, according to government data.

A reported 8,049 deaths were caused by fatal opioid overdoses, up 7% from 2022 and a continuation of trends first observed during the pandemic. 

Opioid-related deaths first rose in 2016, but took a devastating turn for the worst in 2020, found a Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) report. This escalation in overdose deaths coincides with the Liberal's 2017 implementation of a one-billion-dollar federal drug strategy, which failed to yield any tangible results. 

Since 2016, fatal overdoses from fentanyl have jumped 44% in seven years when national surveillance began.

The vast majority (87%) of overdose deaths happened in either British Columbia, Alberta, or Ontario. 82% were a result of fentanyl overdose. 

A B.C. Coroners Service report called “unregulated drug toxicity” found overdose the leading cause of death for B.C. residents aged 10 to 59. More than 14,000 residents have died since April 2016, when a public health emergency was declared in the province.

In Alberta, drug overdoses killed 1,692 people from January through October 2023, according to the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System. Only 127 of those deaths did not involve opioids, statistics show. 

Fentanyl was responsible for four in five (79%) deaths, followed by methamphetamine 63%) and carfentanil (23%).

Drug cocktails, most commonly involving fentanyl with methamphetamine, made treatment more difficult, resulting in more deaths and hospital visits.

Opioid-related overdoses resulted in more than 6,312 hospitalizations last year, up 16% over 2022 levels, the report found. 

Emergency room visits (28,345) and paramedic calls (41,938) rose by 78 visits and 115 calls a day over 2022, respectively.

The Special Advisory Committee on Toxic Drug Poisonings blamed the opioid crisis on the illegal synthetic drug supply.

"Powerful drugs like fentanyl and other emerging synthetic opioids are flooding the illegal drug supply," it said. "This has contributed to an increasingly unpredictable toxic drug supply that is more deadly for people who use substances."


Victims of fentanyl overdoses were predominantly men under the age of 50, accounting for 72% of said deaths. Nearly three in 10 deaths came from men in the 30 to 39 age demographic.

Those who accessed emergency medical care were also predominantly men between the ages of 20 and 49.

It's becoming increasingly clear that Canadian cities and downtown cores are being besieged by escalating chaos and turmoil as the Liberals' oxymoronic harm reduction and “safer” supply drug contradictory policy rages on.

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