February 24th, 2024

Opioid addiction continues to be a deadly problem


By Lethbridge Herald on December 29, 2023.

Sgt. Ryan Darroch checks on unconscious, unhoused individuals during a morning patrol downtown earlier this year. Herald file photo by Steffanie Costigan

Chris Hibbard – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The dangers of opioids cannot be understated.  Reports continue on statistics and trends related to street-drugs, opioid dependency, overdosing and deaths. 

Since 2016, Alberta Health Services has been tracking the usage of these drugs via the Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, most recently updated in December of 2023. 

The results, input into this system from frontline workers around the province, are freely available to any interested party, publicly posted online via healthanalytics.alberta.ca

Some general statistics from the last year see that 7,500 people were enrolled in some form of opioid dependency program in 2023. These individuals  are trying to deal with their problem medically, getting off killer street drugs and using substances like methadone or suboxone to help them while they heal.

In Lethbridge however, nearly 140 individuals have died from opioid use. Nearly 90 per cent of those were found to have fentanyl, methamphetamine, or carfentanil in their bloodstreams, and many had some combination of those three.

In comparison to previous years, 32 died from opioids in 2018 and 48 died in 2020. 

Since 2016, more than 7,000 people have died in Alberta from opioid overdoses. Those who are at highest risk of dying an opioid-related death are 68 per cent male. The majority of deaths occur in public places or in private residences. The average age of those who die is between 25-44, with the peak being ages 35-39.

The  surveillance system reports that of those 140 who died in Lethbridge, nearly 80 of them had seen a health care provider of some kind within 30 days of their deaths. 

EMS services were called out to respond to 351 opioid-related events in 2023, at an average of about 12 calls a week.

Province-wide, emergency rooms in Alberta saw nearly 12,000 visits related to opioids in 2023, and nearly 4,000 of these required overnight hospitalizations. 

In the past year the Alberta drug supply has gotten even more deadly, with other chemical agents added into an already fatal mix, according to at least one news report.

Animal tranquilizers have been getting “cut” with opioids like fentanyl, meaning when an individual overdoses, that overdose can likely be reversed via emergency kits like Nalaxone, but their body, and even their breathing, may still be paralyzed and what may have been an life saved by first responders, may now be irreversible.

A 2023 report compiled for the Stanford Network On Addictions Policy was published earlier this year. This report, entitled “Canada’s Health Crisis: Profiling Opioid Addiction in Alberta & British Columbia,” reveals a few more facts.

British Columbia leads the country in opioid-related death with Alberta coming in second. The report states that “between them, B.C. and Alberta accounted for a quarter of Canada’s population, but almost half (49 per cent) of Canada’s opioid-overdose deaths.”

 The report also states that in the years 2020 and 2021, “opioids caused nearly half as many deaths as COVID-19 over the same period. 

The report states that First Nations people in these two provinces are 4.9 times more likely to die from opioids than non-First Nations people, despite the fact that First Nations people comprise less than four per cent of  Canada’s population. 

According to that same report, Fentanyl is still the major cause of death. 

“Fentanyl is a synthetic opioid that can be up to 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger than morphine… fentanyl has played an important role in the opioid crisis because it is  significantly cheaper to produce per dose and much harder to detect illicit supply routes. This makes them more widespread in illicit drug markets and harder for law enforcement to trace and detect, and it is also more likely that a dose will be too potent and cause people who use these drugs to overdose.” 

That report, which is available to read entirely online, also details issues related to crime prevention and how difficult the opioid epidemic is to fight via law enforcement methods, stating that illicit black markets linked to organized crime, and the low costs to produce the drugs and low costs to purchase them, are “incentivizers”, meaning buying and selling them is worth the risk of incarceration since it’s so profitable with such high margins. 

Different provinces have taken different approaches to dealing with the opioid epidemic, ranging from supervised consumption sites to the decriminalization of possession of small quantities of street drugs.

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ewingbt

Fatal overdoses are up across North America, and with all the harm reduction policies, decriminalization of drugs, safe drug supply, etc. that BC has put in place, they still see the highest fatal overdoses and increases in numbers of addicts. They have had over 20 years to prove if harm reduction works since the opened the first safe injection site in North America.
Harm reduction has been proven to fail after BC pushed it for those 20 years and thousands of died because if it!
Alberta is on the right track, and has only had a short time of just over a year to prove they are on the right track. They needed to increase treatment beds, drug courts and law enforcement members.
“…EMS services were called out to respond to 351 opioid-related events in 2023, at an average of about 12 calls a week…”
I always flinch when I hear these false stats that are reported on the AHS website . . . many times EMS responds to dozens of drug overdose calls per day, and the paramedics would love it if they only had to respond to 12 calls per week!

R.U.Serious

‘also details issues related to crime prevention and how difficult the opioid epidemic is to fight via law enforcement methods, stating that illicit black markets linked to organized crime, and the low costs to produce the drugs and low costs to purchase them, are “incentivizers”, meaning buying and selling them is worth the risk of incarceration since it’s so profitable with such high margins.’
So we just stand by and let organized crime grow and expand their operations as we now see happening? If the police lack the tools necessary to complete their work, then legislation should be passed to provide them with it. However, in a power struggle, our politicians are more concerned with discrediting their rivals than with the welfare of the nation and its citizens. Trudeau simply wants everyone stoned so he can take over the nation without resistance. Thousands of Canadians have died as a result of his actions, which also include his refusal to enact the right legislation to aid in the fight against organized crime. 
Instead of the “club feds,” those who intentionally produce and/or distribute a drug that kills so many people should face years in prison in facilities that truly rehabilitate.
What would happen to me if I deliberately sold defective equipment at my company, knowing full well that it was taking countless lives and murdering people?

Last edited 1 month ago by R.U.Serious
buckwheat

A brilliantly compiled video of the mess created by politicians, SCS and “safe drug supplies. It is very worth the time and effort. Around the 1 hour mark coverage of Alberta begins.
Canada is Dying.
https://youtu.be/_RaWzJUeT0o?si=jyy_plYC-TKzYfkD

buckwheat

And today in this very paper we have an article on the lunacy being practiced in BC and supported by an association of Nurses . Absurd. Something the NDP government dreamed up and are now trying to put a lid on public consumption. They failed. So they create “compassion” with a problem they can’t fix and didn’t foresee open use everywhere. Brilliance at its finest. Just saw a Facebook post, Learn to grow vegetables, don’t elect them. Fitting.

https://lethbridgeherald.com/news/national-news/2023/12/29/bc-court-blocks-new-law-against-public-drug-use-warning-of-irreparable-harm/

Last edited 1 month ago by buckwheat
ewingbt

Lunacy? Absolutely correct! In almost in every case, I have learned if BC is doing it, do the opposite!
I cannot remember which state, but it is either Oregon or Washington who now have put laws into place to end public drug usage after making some bad decisions that only increased fatal overdoses, like BC.

Montreal13

SAPAC recently did a presentation on this issue. All they offered was the same old, same old pretty much. Compassion ,compassion doesn’t solve anything but it keeps the NDP brothers and sisters employed.The system is like taking thyroid medication, once you start it’s for life. Or like employment Lethbridge, an arm of city hall. No results need to be achieved just have the taxpayer keep paying. For what?



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