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HomeNewsFatal opioid overdoses claim 22 Grande Prairie lives so far in 2020

Fatal opioid overdoses claim 22 Grande Prairie lives so far in 2020

Accidental opioid overdoses took the lives of 22 people in Grande Prairie in the first 10 months of 2020. New data released by the province Friday shows a total of 24 drug poisoning deaths between January and October.

Of the opioid-related deaths, 21 were from non-pharmaceutical opioids, while one was linked to pharmaceutical opioids. Non-pharmaceutical opioids are considered to be fentanyl and its related drugs, as well as heroin, while pharmaceuticals are typically prescribed opioids like codeine, hydromorphone, and methadone.

The data comes from the new Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, which will include monthly updates and replace the previously released quarterly reports. It includes more detailed information as well.

The last two months on the record had the highest number of accidental opioid overdoses, with four each reported in October and September 2020. Overall, the city has a fatal opioid poisoning rate of 35 per 100,000 person-years, up slightly from 34.4 for all of 2019 when there were 26 deaths reported.

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Grande Prairie has the fourth-highest fatal opioid death rate of major municipalities. Lethbridge has the highest at 50.9 per 100,000 person-years, while the provincial average is 24.3.

According to Alberta Health, EMS responded to 16 opioid-related events in October, for a rate of 255 per 100,000 residents. An opioid-related event includes the administration of naloxone or the use of the opioid medical protocol.

Use of the Supervised Consumption Site in Grande Prairie has been dropping. There were 1,441 visits in the third quarter of 2020 and 1,221 in the second, down from well more than 3,000 in the previous two quarters.

The average unique visitors per month was 66 in the third quarter and 60 in the second, when the numbers topped 100 in the previous six months. It’s reported there were six adverse events reported at the Supervised Consumption Site the third quarter of the year, a stark difference from 37 in the third quarter of 2019 and 48 in the fourth.

Province-wide, Premier Jason Kenney says the data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a serious impact on people struggling with substance use. However, he notes drug fatality numbers have been trending down since July when more deaths were recorded than in any other month in the province’s history.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only public health crisis in Alberta. Thousands of Albertans continue to battle mental health and addictions issues, often times made more difficult by public health measures, and Alberta’s government is firmly committed to being there to help them recover.”

Albertans struggling with addiction can contact the Addiction Helpline at 1-866-332-2322 for support, information, and referral to services. The toll-free, confidential helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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