Sask. cities have Prairies' highest rate of opioid poisonings: report

A new report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information shows Regina and Saskatoon have the highest rates of hosptializations caused by opioid poisonings among Prairie cities with populations of 100,000 or more.

Province's overall rate decreased since last year's report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information

A prescription pill bottle containing oxycodone and acetaminophen is shown in this 2012 photo. A new report released by the Canadian Institute For Health Information says Regina and Saskatoon have the Prairies' highest rate of hospitalization for opioid poisoning. (Graeme Roy/Canadian Press)

Regina and Saskatoon have the highest rates of hospitalizations for significant opioid poisoning among Prairie cities with a population of 100,000 or more.

That's according to a new report released by the Canadian Institute For Health Information on Thursday.

According to its findings from 34 census metropolitan areas, there were 70 cases of hospitalization due to significant opioid poisonings in Regina over 2016-17, which amounted to 28 hospitalizations per 100,000 people —sixth in the country overall. 

Over the same period of time there were 84 hospitalizations in Saskatoon, for a rate of 26.7 per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg, hospitalization rates were 19.9, 24.5 and 10.2 per 100,000 people, respectively.

The national average was 15.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, according to the report.

The data in the report was collected from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017.

CIHI reports higher rates of hosptializations for opioid poisonings in Western Canada and the territories. (Canadian Institute for Health Information)

Michael Gaucher, director of pharmaceuticals and health workforce information service with CIHI, said it's difficult to determine what exactly is causing the higher rates in Saskatchewan cities compared to others.

"That's part of the reason why we put this data out, is to hopefully have people investigate this further and try to really determine why is their city or higher, or maybe lower," he said.

Gaucher said generally, factors could include the difference in opioid prescription patterns and the availability of opioids on the streets.

Gaucher also pointed out that the data collected represents the number of people treated in a certain city, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are from that area.

He explained that poisoning refers to any instance of someone ingesting an opioid — whether intentionally or accidentally — who experiences harm and requires hospitalization. 

Sask. has high poisoning rate, but saw decrease

He said the higher numbers in Regina reflect the fact that provincially, Saskatchewan has one of the highest rates of opioid poisoning in the country.

"We've found that the actual rate of hospitalizations in Saskatchewan is around just under 22 people per 100,000 population on an annual basis."

In Alberta, the rate is 23.1 and 25 in British Columbia, giving Saskatchewan the third-highest rate among Canadian provinces. 

Gaucher noted a drop in Saskatchewan's overall opioid poisoning hospitalization rate from the previous year. According to the report, it was the only province to see a decrease. 

In 2016-17, CIHI recorded 244 cases of hospitalizations due to serious opioid poisonings in the province. That was down from 277 in 2015-16, but more than the 222 in 2014-15.

Gaucher again said it's difficult to say exactly what was responsible for the decrease, but pointed out that provinces have undertaken different harm-reduction strategies, which include increasing the availability of naloxone as well as changing prescribing guidelines.


Stephanie Taylor

Reporter, CBC Saskatchewan

Stephanie Taylor is a reporter based in Saskatchewan. Before joining CBC News in Regina, she covered municipal politics in her hometown of Winnipeg and in Halifax. Reach her at