Statement from the Co-Chairs of the Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses on Updated Data Related to the Opioid Crisis

by ahnationtalk on June 13, 201933 Views

June 13, 2019 – Ottawa, ON – Public Health Agency of Canada

Today, the co-chairs of the federal, provincial, and territorial Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses—Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, and Dr. Saqib Shahab, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer—issued the following statement on the release of new data on the opioid crisis.

“The epidemic of opioid overdoses continues to be the most challenging public health crisis in recent decades, and the devastating impacts of the crisis continue to be felt in many parts of the country, from Canada’s largest cities to rural and remote communities.

Tragically, 11,577 Canadians died of an apparent opioid-related overdose in Canada between January 2016 and December 2018. There were 4,460 lives lost in 2018 alone. Many of these deaths are related to contamination of the illegal drug supply with toxic substances. Fentanyl and other fentanyl-related substances continue to be a major driver of this crisis. In 2018, approximately three out of four apparent opioid-related overdose deaths involved fentanyl or analogues such as carfentanil.

Recently, Statistics Canada reported that, for the first time in four decades, the life expectancy of Canadians did not increase, largely because of the opioid crisis. To respond to the crisis, we must continue to address the illegal drug supply and to work together to implement additional harm reduction measures. We have seen that a combination of harm reduction measures—such as access to supervised consumption sites, naloxone, and evidence-based treatments— are helping to save lives. We must continue to build on these supports.

The majority of accidental apparent opioid-related deaths between January 2016 and December 2018 also involved one or more non-opioid substances, such as alcohol, cocaine or methamphetamines. This highlights an issue much broader than opioids: one of problematic substance use more generally. Members of the Special Advisory Committee are working together to better understand the root causes of this crisis. This work includes looking at factors related to overall problematic substance use including stigma, mental health, and social and economic factors that put people at increased risk of harms. These deeper underlying issues will take time to resolve, but addressing problematic substance use, across the whole of society, is necessary if we are to successfully turn the opioid crisis around.

There is still much work to be done to abate the opioid crisis, and Canadians can be assured that addressing it remains our priority.”

Dr. Theresa Tam
Chief Public Health Officer of Canada
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

Dr. Saqib Shahab
Chief Medical Health Officer, Saskatchewan
Co-chair, Special Advisory Committee on the Epidemic of Opioid Overdoses

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Contacts

Media Relations
Public Health Agency of Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

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