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Home Trending Study Reveals Over a Quarter of Young Adult Deaths in Canada Were Opioid-Related in 2021
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Study Reveals Over a Quarter of Young Adult Deaths in Canada Were Opioid-Related in 2021

A recent study highlights a significant increase in opioid-related deaths in Canada from 2019 to 2021, particularly in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta, where the rates among men aged 20 to 30 have escalated sharply. The research, conducted by the University of Toronto, focused on accidental opioid-related fatalities in these provinces along with British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and the Northwest Territories.

Manitoba experienced the most pronounced increase, with overdose deaths in the 30 to 39 age group soaring to 500 per million population—a more than fivefold increase from the 89 deaths per million at the study’s outset.

In Saskatchewan, deaths nearly tripled for the same age group, rising to 424 per million from 146 per million. Alberta witnessed a rise to 729 fatalities per million from 272 per million. Ontario also saw a significant increase, with deaths climbing to 384 per million from 210 per million.

Although complete data for 2021 from British Columbia’s coroner service was unavailable at the time of the study, the province noted a substantial rise from 229 deaths per million in 2019 to 394 in 2020.

The national total of opioid overdose deaths more than doubled from 3,007 to 6,222 over the three-year span. This period coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, which limited access to harm reduction programs and led to border restrictions that potentially increased drug supply toxicity. Additionally, the pandemic heightened global feelings of anxiety and loneliness, likely contributing to increased substance use.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, indicates that over 70% of the fatalities were among men, with one in four deaths involving individuals in their 20s and 30s.

A spokesperson from the coroners service in B.C. noted that 78% of those who fatally overdosed in the province from 2019 to 2021 were male.

Given these alarming statistics, Tara Gomes, the study’s senior author and an epidemiologist, stressed the urgency for provinces to expand harm-reduction services, such as supervised consumption sites, to mitigate the severe impact of the opioid crisis. Gomes, who is also the lead principal investigator of the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network, emphasized the critical need for swift and effective response measures.

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