A study has found 1,237 Ontarians, or six people a day, died from an opioid overdose during the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Researchers also say new data is emerging from across North America that suggests the rate of opioid-related deaths continues to increase during the pandemic.
Since 2016, nearly 20,000 Canadians have died during the opioid epidemic.
The study, published Wednesday in the JAMA Open Network, found that pandemic-mandated measures have increased the risk of harm for people who use drugs.
For example, the study points to reduced operation hours of harm reduction services and supervised consumption sites.
Researchers also found increasing rates of opioid-related deaths among young adults in Ontario.
“In the first 6 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 17 843 years of life were lost due to opioid overdose compared with the 6 months prior,” wrote the study’s authors.
The Ontario Drug Policy Research Council says 2,426 people died of a confirmed or suspected opioid-related death in Ontario in 2020 – an eye-opening 60 per cent increase from 2019.