COVID-19 has contributed to more deaths from accidential poisoning in Ontario: StatsCan


Published July 15, 2021 at 1:13 am


There is further confirmation of how much the COVID-19 pandemic has helped exacerbate the opioids and overdoses crises, particularly in Ontario.

Earlier this week, a refreshed provisional dataset was released from the Canadian Vital Statistics Death Database. It focuses on excess mortality among Canadians under the age of 65 during the first 13 months of the pandemic, from March 2020 to April 2021. It indicates that more than 5,500 Canadians from age 0 to 64 died in that period than what would have been expected if there had not been a pandemic. However, fewer than 25 per cent were directly attributed to COVID-19.

This suggests “that the excess mortality is, in large part, related to other factors such as increases in the number deaths attributed to causes associated with substance use and misuse, including unintentional (accidental) poisonings and diseases and conditions related to alcohol consumption,” the report from Statistics Canada states.

StatsCan also says the number of deaths nationwide attributed to accidental poisonings reached an all-time high. Three of the four age/gender categories it tracks for the adult non-senior population had all-time high morality rates. (Women who are 44 years old or younger were the sole exception.)

Ontario, across the entire year, had an estimated 44-per-cent more deaths attributed to accidental poisoning than it did in 2019 (2,235 compared with 1,550).

Ontario entered a state of emergency  in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 17, 2020.That meant that facilities and services related to substance use harm reduction, in-person counselling and supports such as treatment clinics and supervised consumption sites were required close or to reduce capacity.

From April though June of last year, an estimated 605 people in Ontario died of unintentional poisonings. That was a 27-per-cent increase over the first three months year. In the second half of 2020, there were 1,155 deaths attributed to accidental poisonings, which was a 199-per-cent increase over the same span of 2019.

Deaths from accidental poisoning can include different circumstances such as individuals using substances recreationally along with those who mistakenly ingest too much prescription or over-the-counter medications.

The Ontario Drug Policy Network, based at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, has also said that Ontario had a significant spike in opioid deaths in 2020.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs called for the decriminalization of simple possession of hard drugs.

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