Canada: a 45% increase in opioid-related deaths in 2017

Canada opioids crisis

The Public Health Agency of Canada is sounding the alarm. At least 2923 people died of a seemingly opioid-related overdose in Canada from January to September 2017, a 45% increase over the same period in 2016.

In its latest update of the preliminary national data covering the year 2016 and the first three quarters of 2017, the agency says that the situation continues to worsen. “Unfortunately, the data published today confirmed our fears by showing that the crisis has become much worse since 2016,” the agency says.  “The crisis has claimed the same number of victims in the first three quarters of 2017 as during the whole of 2016,” added the federal agency, which says it expects “the number of deaths related to opioids in 2017 to exceed the 4000 “.

Canadian authorities have identified China as a major source of opioid entry into Canada. The federal government is working closely with the United States and Mexico on this issue.

More than 42,000 people died of opioid-related overdoses in the United States in 2016. Information sharing would be frequent between officials in Washington and Ottawa. “The dialogue has been significant since the stakes reached our two countries,” said James Walsh, deputy assistant secretary of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, an autonomous organization of the US State Department.

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Walsh is in Ottawa this week to discuss the opioid crisis with his counterparts in Canada and other G7 countries. “This is a global problem. What we are telling our G7 colleagues and other colleagues around the world is that if you do not see it today, it’s a new paradigm, so you have to be prepared,” he said Tuesday, in interview. “This is something you do not want to see in your neighborhoods infecting your citizens,” said Walsh.

Fentanyl is a challenge because even a small amount can be deadly and can be sent by mail — sparking efforts by the United States and Canada to intercept such packages. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police worked with the Chinese Ministry of State Security to address the entry of synthetic opioids into Canada, supported by the renewal of a protocol between agencies fighting crime.

British Columbia remains the most affected province in 2017. Preliminary data from British Columbia for the first nine months of last year show 1076 fatal overdoses. Ontario ranks second, with 829 accidental deaths apparently related to opioid use, followed by Alberta with 522 deaths.

The data for Quebec do not provide a reliable comparison between 2016 and 2017. There would have been 93 deaths related to the consumption of all illicit drugs from July to September 2017. Data from January to June were not available .

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In New Brunswick, there would have been 25 accidental deaths apparently related to opioid use from January to September 2017, compared to 26 for all of 2016. In Nova Scotia, there were 45 accidental deaths apparently related to opioid use from January to September 2017, compared to 40 for all of 2016.


Emy Torres

Emy holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Michigan and currently freelances part-time for The Talking Democrat.