Kitchener-Waterloo

Opioid overdoses killed 38 people in Waterloo region in 2016

Newly released data from Public Health Ontario show there were 38 overdose deaths from opioids in 2016 in Waterloo region, up from 23 in 2015.

ER visits rise dramatically between 2015 to 2017

Newly updated numbers on the Public Health Ontario opioid tracking website shows the number of people who died from an opioid overdose in 2016 was 38, up from 23 in 2015. (CBC)

There were 38 deaths from opioid overdoses in 2016 — 24 of which involved fentanyl — recently updated statistics show.

The numbers were reported on the Public Health Ontario website that tracks emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths due to opioid use.

The number is a jump from the 23 people who died from opioid overdoses in 2015 in Waterloo region, 22 in 2014, 22 in 2013 and 25 in 2012.

Numbers for the first part of 2017 have not yet been reported.

Fentanyl was involved in 24 deaths, followed by a three-way tie between methadone, hydromorphone and morphine, with seven each.

Oxycodone, which played a part in 11 deaths in 2012, was involved in four deaths in 2016.

When broken down by drug type, the numbers add up to more than 38 because more than one drug may have been found in the person's system.
This graph shows which drugs were involved in opioid overdose deaths in Waterloo region since 2005. The blue line that goes up dramatically in 2016 is fentanyl. (Public Health Ontario)

The number of opioid-related emergency department visits also rose sharply to a total of 251, up 149 from 2015.

The website breaks down age groups and gender for the patients who went to the emergency department in 2016:

  • Ages 0-14: 3 cases (1 boy, 2 girls).
  • Ages 15 to 24: 53 cases (31 men, 22 women).
  • Ages 25 to 44: 120 cases (80 men, 40 women).
  • Ages 45 to 64: 61 cases (31 men, 30 women).
  • Ages 65 and older: 14 cases (5 men, 9 women).

In the first three months of 2017, there were 76 emergency department visits.

This graph from Public Health Ontario shows the number of emergency department visits, hospitalizations and deaths in Waterloo region. (Public Health Ontario)

As for people who remained in hospital, the number dipped slightly from 76 cases in 2015 to 71 cases in 2016. There were 17 in the first three months of this year, up from 13 for the first three months of 2016 but down from the first three months of 2015 when there were 21 hospitalizations.

Harm reduction workers have called on Ontario to declare a public health emergency over the opioid crisis. In 2016, there were 865 opioid overdose deaths in the province, 352 involving fentanyl.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said her government agrees there is a public health crisis and has said it is a top priority.

"That's why I strongly reaffirmed our government's commitment to combat this crisis with additional resources," she said after receiving a letter signed by hundreds of harm reduction workers calling on the province to do more.


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