Fentanyl now top opioid-related killer in northeastern Ontario

Fentanyl overdose has killed 131 people in northern Ontario since 2010, according to new data from the Chief Coroner’s Office obtained by CBC.

Fentanyl — a powerful narcotic that can be 50 to 80 times more powerful than morphine— is now the number one cause of opioid-related death in Ontario and killed nearly 200 people in 2015.

In northern Ontario, an additional 134 people have died of methadone overdose and another 122 overdoses on oxycodone in the last six years.

“The overall number of people dying has been increasing,” said Dr. Reuven Jhirad, the deputy chief coroner for Ontario.

“Fentanyl and opioids work as depressant to the respiratory system,” Jhirad said.

“That in conjunction with other medications impair [a person’s] ability to be conscious and breathe.”

In northeastern Ontario, more people are dying from fentanyl overdose than any other opioid. In the northwest, methadone is the number one killer.

“There can be geographic variations to what medications are being used and what are being implemented in people’s death,” Jhirad said. 

“We can’t assume that Ontario is a homogeneous population that has the same patterns of substance use.”

Northeastern Ontario

Total killed by opioid use from 2010-2015: 288

  • 92 people killed by fentanyl
  • 77 people killed by methadone
  • 86 people killed by oxycodone

Northwestern Ontario

Total killed by opioid use in 2010-2015: At least 142

  • 39 people killed by fentanyl
  • 57 people killed by methadone
  • 36 people killed by oxycodone

‘Difficult problem to solve’

The high rates of fentanyl death have been called a national ‘disaster’ by the Canadian Pharmacists Association.

A private members bill hoping to curb fentanyl abuse in Ontario brought forward by Nipissing Progressive-Conservative MPP Vic Fedeli became law late last year.

It requires people who have fentanyl prescriptions to return their used patches before they can receive new ones, in an attempt to curb the sale of the patches on the black market.

“It’s a difficult problem to solve,” Jhirad said. 

“It’s not simply that somebody is using. It’s the reasons behind [it is] where that use comes from.”

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CBC | Health News