Kitchener-Waterloo

Nearly 100 suspected overdose deaths in Waterloo region in 2020

Nearly 100 people in Waterloo region are thought to have died last year from overdoses, according to new numbers from regional police.

Number of suspected deaths exceeds 2017 record

In 2020, 98 people in Waterloo region are thought to have died from overdoses. It's a steep increase from the year before, when 63 suspected overdose deaths. (U.S. Attorneys Office for Utah/The Associated Press)

Nearly 100 people in Waterloo region are thought to have died last year from overdoses, according to new numbers from regional police.

The numbers released Tuesday show 98 people are suspected to have died last year. Overdose deaths are considered "suspected" until they have been confirmed by the coroner's office, which can take up to 12 months.

The 98 suspected deaths are a steep increase from previous years.

In 2019, there were 63 suspected overdose deaths and in 2018 there were 61.

In 2017, the highest year on record for overdose deaths in the region, there were 86 overdose-related deaths.

Regional police spokesperson Cherri Greeno said there were a total of 1,339 overdoses last year and that police administered naloxone 48 times.

Isolation, drug toxicity

Speaking to CBC News last month, deputy chief of Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services Robert Crossan said the increase in deaths may have been linked to the increasing toxicity of drugs circulating locally. 

The isolation of the pandemic may have pushed more people to use drugs alone last year, Crossan said. That means no one is around to help if things go wrong.

Crossan urged anyone who uses drugs or who knows someone who does to get a naloxone kit.

"It makes a difference between life and death," he said.

Naloxone kits are available through regional public health and the Sanguen Health Centre. They are also available over the counter but without a prescription through many pharmacies.

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