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Overdose deaths on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic

International Overdose Awareness Day

Monday, August 31, International Overdose Awareness Day, is a chance to raise awareness of the overdose crisis and reduce the stigma around drug abuse.  

Most overdose deaths are a result of opioid use, including heroin, morphine and Fentanyl. Canada holds the record for the highest consumption rate of opioids, with 15,393 overdose deaths between January 2016 and December 2019 alone.  

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has led to increased deaths from Fentanyl – said to be 100 times more potent than morphine. As the province shut down, so did Fentanyl addiction supports. Anxiety and self-isolation have led some vulnerable individuals to turn to Fentanyl. Toronto Public Health reports an 85 per cent increase in suspected opioid overdose-related deaths during the pandemic – 27 in July alone. 

The government has been slow in responding to the opioid crisis. Even before COVID-19, many of our 8,000 dedicated Mental Health and Addictions members working in public hospitals, like CAMH, and in community mental and addiction health agencies had sounded the alarm on surging overdose cases and the hazards of Fentanyl for workers.  

Ontario has wisely invested billions into fighting COVID-19, but preventing opioid deaths also demands meaningful investment. Overdose victims, their families and communities are just as real, their deaths just as awful.  

We renew our call on the government to invest in supports and halt the opioid toll on Ontario lives. Because overdose deaths are as preventable as they are tragic.  

In solidarity, 

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, First Vice-President/Treasurer