Fatal drug poisonings surpass 1,000 as Alberta on track for deadliest year on record


Alberta is on track to have the deadliest year on record for fatal drug poisoning.

There were 1,026 drug poisoning deaths between January and August of this year, according to new data from Alberta’s Substance Use Monitoring System. A total of 856 deaths were reported during the same period in 2020, the worst year on record.

While deaths increased precipitously last year in the spring, this year the deaths reported each month have consistently exceeded 100.

In the second quarter of 2021, approximately 20% of opioid poisoning deaths occurred in public places. The majority occurred in private residences – 52 percent where the deceased lived permanently.

“We have to recognize that addiction does not discriminate,” said Lerena Greig, executive director of the support organization Parents Empowering Parents.

“It’s not respectful of people of demographics, social status, ethnicity. And I think that happening in the suburbs must really be an eye-opening experience.”

Greig said a supply of more toxic drugs was among the drivers of the rise. She said the stigma attached to drug use must be broken to provide much-needed support.

“We kind of have to – through compassionate eyes – keep an eye on our neighbors,” she said.

The provincial government recently released a mobile app to help Albertans who use alone. The digital overdose response system, available in Edmonton and Calgary, connects users with support staff who can call emergency responders if they suspect an overdose.

Petra Schulz, co-founder of the Moms Stop the Harm organization, said she cannot recommend the app as it is still in its early stages. The alternatives she has offered are the Lifeguard and Brave apps.

Schulz criticizes the provincial government’s response to the drug poisoning crisis, saying it has undermined harm reduction.

“We have four people who die every day in this province,” she said. “They talk a lot about recovery, but you can’t recover if you are dead.”

Continuum of care

Eric Engler, press secretary to Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Mike Ellis, said the minister has made it clear that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the addiction crisis.

“The Government of Alberta is focused on building a recovery-focused continuum of care that encompasses prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery,” he said in a mailed statement. electronic.

“We continue to support services that reduce damage as part of a complete system.”

The government has promised to publicly fund 4,000 new treatment places annually and to eliminate user fees for these places.

There are six permanent and mobile supervised consumption sites in Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Lethbridge and Grande Prairie. The province plans to launch another in Edmonton’s Strathcona neighborhood.

Last year, the province shut down North America’s busiest supervised drinking service in Lethbridge following an audit.

A site that operated 12 hours a day at Boyle Street Community Services in downtown Edmonton was also closed as neighboring George Spady began operating its 24-hour supervised consumption services.

The government cut funding for an injectable opioid agonist treatment program in 2020. After a complaint was filed, patients in the last resort program were transferred to another similar harm reduction program as part of the program. ‘a two-year grant. But the new contributions were interrupted.

Lori Sigurdson, NDP spokesperson for the file, said the United Conservative Party is biased against the harm reduction model that costs lives.

She proposed an emergency action plan to include expanding supervised consumption services, providing a safe supply of alternatives to toxic street drugs, and increasing access to drug testing. drugs.

“These are some of the things we need to do, and we need to do them now.”


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