Study: Opioid-Related Deaths in Ontario during COVID-19

” The findings of this report broadly suggest a need for policies and programs designed to urgently address the increase in opioid mortality, such as access to harm reduction…and safer supply of drugs.”

opioid related deaths in ontario opioid related deaths in ontario

“In the first 15 weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic in Ontario, 695 people died of a confirmed or suspected opioid- related death, representing a 38% increase compared to the 15 weeks immediately preceding the pandemic. During the pandemic, fentanyl and stimulants (particularly cocaine) were more commonly direct contributors to these deaths. These findings could represent unexpected exposures to stimulants (excluding caffeine) or fentanyl in the drug supply (although data from drug checking services in Toronto suggests that this may not be the case during the pandemic), patterns of poly-substance use (e.g. stimulants being used to manage opioid withdrawal symptoms), or availability and affordability of the unregulated drug supply.

In contrast, the significant increase in etizolam detection during the pandemic aligns with data from drug checking services in Toronto, suggesting that this synthetic benzodiazepine has increasingly been identified in fentanyl samples. This was not commonly labeled as a direct contributor to death by the investigating coroner, as there is a paucity of data regarding the effects of the combination of these unregulated drugs. Further understanding is needed on the contributions of etizolam and other synthetic benzodiazepines to opioid-related deaths.” [Read More]

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The Regulation Project is an international collaboration to advocate and educate for the legal regulation of drugs.