The City of Ottawa has launched a campaign to remind people to lock up their prescription medications, especially opioids, to prevent youth from misusing them.
The public warning comes after a recent spike in suspected overdoses in Ottawa hospitals earlier this month, and coincides with new data that shows the number of opioid prescriptions filled in Ontario has jumped by five per cent in two years.
The "Secure Your Meds" campaign encourages people to lock up their medications and to check them regularly to make sure they're not missing.
A 2014 Ottawa Student Drug Use and Health Report said 13 per cent of Ottawa high school students used prescription drugs non-medically and that two-thirds of them got the drug from a parent, sibling or someone else they live with.
The city said opioids are among the most misused drugs in Ottawa and were involved in 45 per cent of drug overdose deaths from 2009 to 2011. In 2014, the opioid fentanyl, was the leading cause of death due to unintentional overdose fatalities in Ottawa.
Opioid use in the province also appears to be on the rise.
On Wednesday, Health Quality Ontario released a report that showed up to 9.2 million opioid prescriptions were filled in 2015-2016, highlighting the growing reliance on the drugs for pain management. In 2015, at least 551 people died from opioid overdoses in Ontario, an increase from 421 in 2010.
The City of Ottawa campaign also urges residents to drop off unused or expired prescription drugs to a local pharmacy. A list of locations is available at DrugDropOffOttawa.ca.