Opioids killed thousands of Canadians last year

Published On June 18, 2019 | By Simran Cellini | News

Opioids killed more than 4,400 Canadians in 2018, a Canadian government report found. (Reuters/George Frey)

Simran Cellini

Public Health Ontario recently updated its statistics showing 388 people died from opioid overdose from July to September 2018.

A total of 4,460 deaths occurred in 2018 across Canada, this means that one life was lost every two hours related to opioids, a federal government report stated. The report also shows that deaths across the country have been increasing, while recently the Ontario government reduced its funding for safe injection sites.

Verity Eaton, a Street Health response worker in Toronto, said opioid users need to be more aware of the services across Ontario that can help them.

Street Health is a non-profit community based agency that offers both physical and mental health programs.

“I think that more people need to visit street community sites because they provide a wide range of services that will help them rebuild their lives,” she said.

Eaton said that alternative treatment is available for opioid users.

“Medicines, counseling and behavioural therapies are just some of the ways that can help opioid users slowly decrease their usage amount,” she said.

Eaton said community and safe injection sites have helped hundreds of people throughout the years.

“Safe injection sites have stopped many people from overdosing and reduces the number of opioid deaths,” she said.

Eaton said words such as “junkie” and “addict” create a negative stereotype towards opioid users.

“When hearing this, opioid users feel like this is something that they should hide and that they are being treated differently from the rest of the society,” she said.

Eaton said Canadians need to be more educated about opioids.

“We need to raise awareness on this topic,” she said. “People need to talk about their stories with others such as myself and firms like Street Health.”

Eaton said working as a response worker is rewarding for her and allows her to build close relationships on a daily basis.

“Everyone has a different story. We provide both needle exchange and stem distribution services reducing disease transmission and to build relationships with individuals who may be isolated by the stigma and discrimination,” she said.

Quinn Thompson, a pharmaceutical student, said people need to be more aware about the substances they are taking.

“People take substances such as opioids without understanding their side effects,” he said, adding opioids have serious long term and life-threatening effects.

“People taking opioids can potentially have liver damage, worsening pain, increased tolerance and more,” he said.

Thompson said illegal substances need to be tracked down and taken off the streets.

“People are easily getting access to illegal substances especially in Ontario and the numbers of deaths are increasing because of this,” Thompson said.

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