Canada is facing an opioid epidemic. The year 2016 brought a flood of daily headlines, articles, reports, statistics, and news coverage all across the country on the drug crisis. Unfortunately, 2017 proved to be just as devastating. Overdoses, rising hospital intakes, and lost lives filled every news station and newspaper across Canada. Avoiding the news surrounding Canada’s opioid epidemic seems nearly impossible today as the issue continues to grow.
For some perspective and insights into how devastating the opioid epidemic has become, here are some of the most staggering statistics from the past few years.
Over 2,800 Canadians Died in 2016
In British Columbia, the total number of opioid-related deaths was 978; in Ontario, 865; and in Alberta, 586�”last year, more than 2,800 people lost their lives to opioid-related overdoses. That’s an average of more than seven individuals every single day in 2016.
Every province and territory saw death last year due to opioids, making this one of the largest nation-wide drug epidemics in Canada’s history.
The Numbers Are Rising in 2017
After the harrowing start to the opioid epidemic of 2016, it’s hard to imagine the situation could get worse. However, that’s exactly what happened.
In the first half of 2017, over 1,400 Canadians died from opioid-related overdoses. As Canada’s provinces and territories continue to report on the crisis, one thing has become clear: the situation is getting much worse. Based on the current figures, it’s estimated thatmore than 4,000 people will have lost their lives to the opioid crisis by the end of 2017. That’s far beyond last year’s tally.
Middle Aged Men Are at a Greater Risk
hWhile it does vary from province to province,nearly three-quarters of opioid-related deaths were reportedly males. While it would be a mistake to assume women aren’t at risk, more men are dying and being hospitalized for opioid overdoses across the country.
In terms of age, the numbers vary widely depending on the province or territory. While it appears nearly every age group is affected by the crisis, 28 percent of deaths occurred among those aged 30 to 39 years.
Fentanyl Is Gaining Popularity
Fentanyl is a powerful and potentially deadly opioid that has become the opiate of choice for many users across Canada. The proportion offentanyl-related opioid overdoses has risen 75 percent in 2017, compared to 53 percent in 2016. While fentanyl has hit British Columbia and Alberta the hardest, other provinces, such as Ontario, are beginning to see steady increases in fentanyl use.
The Second Largest Consumer of Pharmaceutical Opioids
In 2016, doctors were writing one prescription for every two Canadians, making Canada the world’ssecond largest per-capita consumer of pharmaceutical opioids�”following closely behind the United States. Because painkillers quickly became doctors’ prescription of choice in the early 2000s, many Canadians unintentionally became addicted to opioids, contributing to what’s now adevastating opioid epidemic.
It Started in 1996
While the opioid epidemic is currently at an all-time high, the issue dates back to 1996 when opioids became more widely available. Before then, doctors primarily prescribed opioids to terminally ill cancer patients.
However, when Health Canada approved OxyContin in 1996, doctors began prescribing the drug for everything from back pain to fibromyalgia. Because this pill was swallowed and digested over 12 hours, it was claimed that the drug posed lower risks of abuse and dependence compared to other fast-acting painkillers.
However, by the early 2000s, reports of addition and overdoses exploded.
Fast forward to 2017 and the country is in a full-blown epidemic. To better protect future Canadians, natural medicine such as medicinal cannabis should be considered before a dangerously addictive painkiller is prescribed.