Updated Numbers on Opioid-Related Overdose Deaths in Canada 

News release

More than 10,300 Canadians lost their lives between January 2016 and September 2018

April 10, 2019 - Ottawa, ONTARIO - Public Health Agency of Canada

The opioid crisis continues to have devastating effects on the health and lives of many Canadians, their families and their communities.

Today, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), on behalf of the federal, provincial and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses, released data on apparent opioid‑related deaths in Canada, as well as data on suspected opioid-related overdoses, based on emergency medical services data, from January 2018 to September 2018.

During the first nine months of 2018, 3,286 Canadians lost their lives to apparent opioid-related overdoses. Tragically, this means that between January 2016 and September 2018, more than 10,300 Canadians died as a resulted of an apparent opioid-related overdose.

In addition, the data show that fentanyl and other fentanyl-related substances continue to be a major driver of this crisis. From January 2018 to September 2018, 73% of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths involved fentanyl or fentanyl-related substances.

The data released today confirm that this crisis continues to impact the entire country. These findings are concerning, and the Government of Canada continues to take action to address the opioid crisis by improving access to harm reduction services, raising awareness of the risks of opioids, and removing barriers to treatment such as addressing stigma.

Ongoing collaborative efforts of the federal, provincial and territorial governments to collect and share data are crucial to informing policies and interventions to help those affected by the opioid crisis. Efforts must continue at all levels to address this crisis. A major priority must be eliminating the stigma and discrimination associated with substance use, which act as barriers to treatment. The adoption of equitable and compassionate policies, practices and language, will help ensure that more Canadians can get the help they need and want.

The opioid crisis is a complex health and social issue and concerted efforts across the whole of society are required to address it. This includes all levels of government, stakeholders, partners and people with lived and living experience working on the vital areas of prevention, data collection, stigma, and access to harm reduction and treatment services in order to help save lives.

Quotes

“The data released today remind us of the significant impact the opioid crisis is having on Canadians from all walks of life and from all across our country. Each death is a tragedy that takes its toll on families, friends and communities. The Government of Canada continues to take action to address this crisis. Budget 2019 proposes additional funding of $30.5 million over five years, with $1 million in ongoing funding, for targeted measures to address persistent gaps in harm reduction and treatment. We will continue to examine all available evidence to inform our future actions and ultimately save lives.”
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health

“Today’s newly released data are a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining and increasing our efforts to end the epidemic of opioid overdoses in Canada. As we take the pain of these losses and the deeply concerning data to heart we must continue to strengthen our collaborative public health response. It is important to highlight that what has been done is making a difference. For example, having naloxone readily available across the country without a prescription and approving supervised consumption sites are reducing harms and saving lives. I am also looking forward to seeing the results of the Emergency Treatment Fund, which is helping provinces and territories to increase access to treatment for people who use drugs.”
Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada and Interim President of the Public Health Agency of Canada
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

“Every new release of data helps us to better understand the scope and the impact of the opioid crisis in Canada. These latest data reaffirm that all Canadians are being affected, directly or indirectly, by this epidemic. The numbers are devastating and tragic, and they underscore the need for our continued commitment across all jurisdictions to a comprehensive approach in collaboration with our partners. The work done to date to address this through prevention, harm reduction and treatment initiatives has shown results and we will continue our efforts throughout the country.”
Dr. Saqib Shahab
Government of Saskatchewan, Chief Medical Health Officer
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Quick facts

  • Stigma can affect those who use drugs. Raising awareness of the impact of stigma will help reduce negative attitudes, beliefs and behaviors towards those who use drugs and create a society where people can access compassionate and supportive health and social services that are free from discrimination and judgement.

  • More than 10,300 people lost their lives in Canada between January 2016 and September 2018 related to opioids.

  • The opioid epidemic has affected every part of the country; however, certain regions, including British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario, have been impacted more than others. 

  • Based on available data, there were 3,286 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada between January 2018 and September 2018; 93% were accidental.

    • Most accidental apparent opioid-related deaths occurred among males (75%); however, this varied by province and territory.
    • Age group patterns also vary by region; however, the vast majority of deaths were among young and middle-aged adults.

Associated links

Contacts

Thierry Bélair
Office of Ginette Petitpas Taylor
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca


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