Opioid figures released to Niagara Region show frightening increase

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In a presentation from the Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) department to the regional council, it’s clear that opioid addiction, overdoses and subsequent deaths are continuing to rise among regional residents.

From January to May 2021, there were 330 suspected overdoses, as reported by the region’s Emergency Medical Services (EMS). That is well past half the total for all of 2020, which was 625 and far past half from the total of 499 reported in 2019.

The stats about the overdose victims from year to year are eerily similar. In 2020, 75 per cent of the EMS calls saw male victims, 63 per cent were aged 25 to 44 while 46 per cent of the calls were from St Catharines with another 24 per cent were placed in Niagara Falls, the region’s two most populous cities. The figures in 2019 virtually mirrored those numbers.

A sobering statistic is the number of opioid-related hospital emergency visits, particularly last year when regional hospitals were already in a tailspin due to COVID patients. While only January to September numbers are available for 2020, just three-quarters of the year, there were 533 victims rushed to emergency. In all of 2019, there were 690 while 2018 saw 700. The gender and age range match the above numbers.

That leaves the most frightening statistic of all, opioid deaths in the region. In 2020, there were 147 confirmed opioid deaths region-wide compared to 90 in 2019 and 89 in 2018.

Fentanyl was the opioid most responsible for deaths with 52 per cent in 2019 and 79 per cent in 2018 while carfentanil was the second highest in 2019 with 46% and methadone being number two in 2018 with 18 per cent.

The distribution of naloxone kits, a drug that fights and counters the effects of opioids in the body and is more commonly known as Narcon, was also on the rise through the region. There were 1,092 distributed in January-February 2021 through the Ontario Naloxone Program compared to 5,885 kits delivered in 2020 and 4,761 in 2019.

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