Thunder Bay district has the highest prescription rate for opiates, such as Oxycontin, in all of Ontario, according to a recent study. The research also indicated the district has the second highest rate of overdose deaths.

The data came from a study published earlier this year in Healthcare Quarterly. It was based on statistics gathered from Opioid prescriptions dispensed to Ontario Public Drug Program (OPDP) beneficiaries aged 15–64.

Patty Hajdu, Thunder Bay's drug strategy co-ordinator, said the city can use the study to help set its drug prevention priorities and to support applications for government funding.

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Patty Hajdu, Thunder Bay's drug strategy co-ordinator, said the city can use a recent study to help set its drug prevention priorities and to support applications for government funding.

"Part of our challenge has always been proving that we have a problem," she said. "We know we have a problem through various reports of people's experiences, but we didn't have any kind of hard data. It's nice to start getting some of that data."

Hajdu said the study gave her team some important numbers that show there is a huge opioid misuse in Thunder Bay.

Four other areas in the province (Sudbury, Lennox and Addington, Nipissing and Peterborough) also ranked in the top 10  with respect to both prescription and opioid-related death rates.

'There's validity there now'

"This study gave us some evidence that will help when it comes to talking with service providers and physicians (about) support and funding," Hajdu added.

And when it comes to overdose prevention, she said the evidence is key.

"We really need to reduce overdose rates," she said. "We have some stats to draw on. There’s validity there now."

Hajdu said solutions should include more supportive housing, adequate wages and improving employment opportunities in the district.

"We want to keep people alive and keep them relatively healthy," Hajdu noted.