Between 1,400 and 2,400 people could lose their lives due to opioid-related harm over the next six months, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.
This stark projection underscores the importance of addressing this crisis to prevent further deaths and other harms, PHAC said in a statement Thursday.
While the agency emphasizes that substance-related harms affect many people “from all walks of life” in the country, some groups are more impacted by the crisis than others.
“A new brief report published by PHAC, suggests that in 2016 and 2017, people experiencing homelessness were overrepresented in substance-related deaths,” the release reads.
“While people experiencing homelessness represent a small percentage of those who died of an overdose, those who use substances face numerous compounding stigmas, tied to their housing status, substance use, and often other factors like ethnicity and mental health status, that create barriers to accessing social and health services and supports, therefore putting them at higher risk of substance-related harms.”
The latest modelling projections on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses from the PHAC suggest that trends continue to remain high as the country sees a significant rise in opioid and other substance-related deaths since 2016.
The average number of opioid-related deaths per day was eight in 2016 and this number has more than doubled, reaching an all-time high of 21 per day in 2021. In 2021, 7,560 people died from an opioid-related deaths that year.
Across all modelling scenarios, the agency says projections underscore the critical importance of further action to address this crisis. But apart from providing access to treatment and harm reduction measures, the PHAC suggests “we must look at root causes and broader conditions to prevent substance-related harms in the first place.”
“Strengthening community and individual resilience by ensuring adequate and affordable housing for all, facilitating social connection in communities, and supporting positive child and youth development are examples of important foundations for this critical work, and ones that necessitate strong leadership from various disciplines and sectors.”
PHAC adds a vast majority of opioid-related deaths continue to be accidental, and more than half also involves the use of a stimulant like cocaine and methamphetamine, “underscoring the polysubstance nature of the overdose crisis.”
Canadians are encouraged to learn the signs of an overdose, carry naloxone, and recognize stigmatizing language and attitudes related to substance use.