Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Federal, Provincial and Territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Statements

September 14, 2017 – Ottawa, ON – Public Health Agency of Canada

OTTAWA – The opioid overdose crisis has been devastating for Canadian families and communities in many parts of the country. Sadly, newly compiled data paints a national picture where overdose deaths continue to rise, with some parts of Canada continuing to be harder hit by this public health crisis than others. The numbers released today represents more than just data and statistics. Behind every number is a person, a life lost and loved ones forever impacted by their loss.

Today, on behalf of the federal, provincial and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, we are releasing an update to the preliminary national data on apparent opioid-related deaths in 2016 that were published in June. The updated preliminary 2016 data provide, for the first time, more detailed information on age and sex of the individuals and the type of opioid(s) involved in the apparent opioid-related deaths. We are also providing new preliminary data for the first quarter of 2017. 

Unfortunately, the preliminary data show that there were more than 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths in 2016, up from an initial report of 2,458 deaths. Furthermore, in the first quarter of 2017, at least 602 Canadians have been tragically lost to apparent opioid overdoses. The preliminary data for the first quarter of 2017 suggest that the total number of deaths will be higher in 2017, with at least 3,000 Canadians dying this year from apparent opioid overdoses.

While the new data help to fill out a national picture, that picture is still not complete. The numbers provided in today’s data release will continue to be refined as we get new information. What the data do show is that while this is a national crisis, the impact varies from region to region across the country.

The federal government is working with all provinces and territories to provide a more complete picture of the impact of the opioid overdose crisis across the country, and regional stories are beginning to emerge. Beyond the number of apparent opioid-related deaths, we can now begin to see who is being most affected and what drugs are most often involved in these overdose deaths.

For example, the data indicate that in many parts of the country men have been disproportionately affected. The highest percentage of overdose deaths have occurred among people between the ages of 30 and 39. The data also suggest that deaths involving fentanyl-related opioids are increasing in prevalence in many regions and have more than doubled over the space of a year at the national level. However, there are significant differences among the provinces and territories, underscoring that there isn’t a single solution to fix this crisis.

Federal, provincial and territorial authorities continue to work closely together through the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, and are committed to continuing to improve opioid surveillance to better inform overdose prevention, treatment and harm reduction efforts across Canada.

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Co-chair Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Dr. Robert Strang
Chief Public Health Officer of Nova Scotia
Co-chair Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Contacts
Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983


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