Manitoba heavily impacted by opioid-related deaths leading into pandemic: report

A new study out of Ontario and posted in the Canadian Medical Association Journal highlights the significant increase in accidental opioid-related deaths in Canada leading into the COVID-19 pandemic, with Manitoba being one of the most impacted provinces in the country.

The research looked at opioid-related deaths between 2019 and 2021 in nine provinces and territories in Canada.

Across Canada, opioid-related deaths more than doubled from 2019 with 3,007, to 6,222 in 2021.

It also found the years of life lost per 100,000 people climbed from 3.5 years in 2019 to 7.0 in 2021.

After dipping halfway through 2019, opioid-related deaths spiked dramatically through the first quarter of 2020 and spiked in the third quarter of 2021.

People in their 20s and 30s were most impacted by opioid deaths as they represented 29.3 per cent of all deaths in people aged 20 to 29 and 29 per cent of all deaths for people between 30 and 39.

“The disproportionate loss of life in this demographic group highlights the critical need for targeted prevention efforts,” the report said.

The data also showed men were much more likely to suffer an opioid-related death compared to women, with more than 4,500 deaths in 2021 compared to more than 1,600 women.

Manitoba one of the most impacted provinces by opioid-related deaths

Breaking down the provinces individually, the research found the prairie provinces were impacted the most by opioid-related deaths.

Alberta and Saskatchewan both saw death numbers more than double between 2019 and 2021 – 619 deaths to 1,618 in Alberta and 109 to 322 deaths in Saskatchewan.

Meanwhile, Manitoba’s opioid-related deaths spiked nearly five times more by 2021. There were 54 deaths in the province in 2019 and by the end of 2021, there were 263.

“In Manitoba, 70 per cent of opioid toxicity deaths in 2019 had fentanyl or fentanyl analogues detected, increasing to 86 per cent in 2020,” the report said.

The years of life lost also jumped dramatically in Manitoba, going from 1.8 per 100,000 to 8.5 per 100,000 in 2021.

Those in the 30 to 39 age range were most impacted by opioid-related deaths in Manitoba. Almost 30 per cent of deaths in that age group were attributable to opioids.

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