London second only to Kelowna in rate of hospitalizations for opioid poisoning

London, Ont., is second in the country to only Kelowna, B.C., when it comes to the rate of hospital admissions for opioid poisonings.

'It's really getting grim," says one London man who's seen 3 people die in recent overdoses

One London addict said with fentanyl selling cheaper than heroin, many addicts are willing to try it. (RCMP)

London, Ont., is second in the country to only Kelowna, B.C., when it comes to the rate of hospital admissions for opioid poisonings.

The numbers from the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) report that London had 30.4 hospital admissions for opioid poisoning per 100,000 people last year. That's higher than Ottawa (13.4), Toronto (7.9) and Windsor (18.2).

The only Canadian city to have a higher rate was Kelowna, B.C. at 36.3 per 100,000 people.

Other Canadian cities with high opioid-related hospital admission rates per 100,000 people included Regina (28.3) Thunder Bay (28.2) and Vancouver (20.5)

The numbers are a measure of annual hospital admissions per 100,000 in metropolitan areas with a total population of at least 100,000, of which 50,000 or more live in the urban core.

Also included in the data from CIHI is the fact that in 2016, an average of five people a day were hospitalized in Ontario due to opioid poisonings.

"This is a major public health crisis in Canada," Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, said in the report.

"Tragically, in 2016, we estimate there were about 2,500 apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada, which is greater than the number of Canadians who died at the height of the HIV epidemic in 1995."

The numbers only capture confirmed opioid poisonings. 

A spokesperson for the London Health Sciences Centre said the hospital received the report Wednesday, but has not had time to review the data.

'It's getting really grim'

Outside an east-London methadone clinic, the numbers come as no surprise.

Grant, who did not want to have his last name reported, is a former opioid user who sees the damage first-hand.

"Everybody out here who's using some type of narcotic knows that it's really getting grim," he told CBC London. "I had a roommate who was just admitted into the hospital not long ago and that was his seventh or eighth [overdose]. That's getting too much."

Grant believes the presence of fentanyl and carfentanil on the street are to blame for the high number of the overdoses. He said carfentanil is cheaper than heroin, and many addicts are willing to try it.

Carfentanil is more powerful than fentanyl, and is used to tranquilize large mammals, like elephants.

"They think 'Why won't I try this carfentanil stuff, it's cheaper it's going to last me longer' and unfortunately they do the same amount as they do in heroin and that's it. Drop."

ER visit numbers

This graph shows the amount of emergency department visits caused by opioid poisoning by city between 2016-2017.

London is in the middle of the pack when its emergency room visits for opioid poisonings when compared with other mid-size cities.

London had a rate of 43.6 emergency department visits in for opioid poisonings per 100,000 people.

That was more than Guelph (41.2), Ottawa (27.3) and Toronto (23) but less than Brantford (98.9), St. Catharines-Niagara (72.5) and Barrie (69.9).

About the Author

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.


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