Opioid abuse claimed six lives a day in Ontario during start of pandemic

Researchers found increasing rates of opioid-related deaths among young adults in Ontario.

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.

Related: Councillors in Barrie give tentative nod to supervised safe injection site

The journey that began several years ago to find a location for a supervised consumption site (SCS) in Barrie is close to reaching a destination. City council general committee gave tentative approval on Tuesday endorsing 11 Innisfil Street.

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.