Written By: Charlotte Boone (July 2020)
It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic is having devastating ripple effects in many aspects of the life of Canadians – but some of these ripples are taking longer than others to come to the public’s attention. One of these significant impacts is the rate of opioid overdoses.
In British Columbia, there was a 39 percent jump in overdose deaths this April compared to April 2019, and Alberta saw an increase in the number of opioid-related calls to EMS from 257 in March to 550 this May1. In a public statement, Dr. Theresa Tam noted that in April 2020 Toronto reported the highest number of illicit opioid-related fatalities in one month since September 2017, with similar trends in Calgary, Nova Scotia, and Guelph2. Further, it is no secret that substance use affects our country’s most vulnerable citizens. Those who are likely to face the most devastating impacts of COVID-19’s social and economic fallout are also the most likely to be impacted by the opioid epidemic.
These statistics are devastating. These trends can shatter the lives of our fellow citizens as well as placing undue burden on the healthcare system at a time when it is already significantly strained.
There are several postulated reasons for the uptick in overdoses being seen in recent months. Some of these reasons were included in an alert published last month by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. These include an influx of disposable income for many Canadians, interruptions in the illicit drug supply chain resulting in unknown fillers, increased stress and anxiety, inaccessibility of safe injection sites, and more individuals using alone.3
If you’re not a drug user, you may be thinking – why does this matter to me? What can I do about it? Although no one person can halt this disastrous symptom of COVID-19, together we can make our cities a safer place to be.
Naloxone is a medication which can be picked up for free at PACE pharmacy, and almost any other pharmacy in the city. You can think of Naloxone like an Epipen for overdoses – a medication which can buy someone overdosing enough time for paramedics to arrive. Formulated as either an injection or a nasal spray, the administration of Naloxone can very well save someone’s life.
Pharmacists are happy to train anyone to recognize the symptoms of an overdose, administer the medication properly, and contribute to a safer city. This simple, actionable step, if taken by many, can create everyday heroes to address this insidious opioid health crisis as our front-line heroes continue to address the illustrious, viral one.
- (2020, June 10). Pandemic worsens Canada’s deadly opioid overdose epidemic. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Canada, Public Health Agency of Canada. (May 29th, 2020). Statement from the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada on COVID-19.
- Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Additction. CCENDU Alert: Changes Related to COVID-19 in the Illegal Drug Supply and Access to Services, and Resulting Health Harms. May 2020 Retrieved at :https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2020-05/CCSA-COVID-19-CCENDU-Illegal-Drug-Supply-Alert-2020-en.pdf