ADEA Washington Update

Smaller Canadian Cities Hit Hard by Opioid Crisis

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Canada is in the midst of a nationwide opioid crisis, and its impact is felt disproportionately in smaller cities and towns.

The crisis has accelerated in the past few years. Last year, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported there were 2,816 apparent opioid-related deaths, with nearly three-quarters of them occurring among males. Canada has roughly 36 million people.

A Chartbook released in September by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), an independent not-for-profit, notes that an average of 16 Canadians each day are hospitalized due to opioid poisoning, an increase of 53% between calendar years 2007 and 2017. Almost half of that increase has taken place in the last three years, the Chartbook noted.

Visits to emergency departments in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, rose by almost 50% between calendar years 2012 and 2017, with most of that gain also in the past three years.

The CIHI hospitalization data indicate that nine of out the 10 hardest hit cities had fewer than 225,000 inhabitants. Brantford, a city of 100,000 people about 60 miles west of Toronto, had a hospitalization rate of 32 people per 100,000 people compared with just 7.9 per 100,000 people in Toronto, which has a population of 2.7 million.

The opioid epidemic is also hitting members of Canada’s First Nations community much harder than other Canadians. There are an estimated 850,000 First Nations people in Canada, a figure that does not include the Métis or Inuit populations. An August report by the First Nations Health Authority and provincial government of British Columbia notes that in the province, First Nations people were three times more likely to die of an overdose than non-First Nations people, and they had a five times greater risk of experiencing an overdose.

Canada’s opioid crisis appears to vary greatly depending on the region. The Chartbook reports that opioid hospitalization rates ranged from 25 per 100,000 people in British Columbia to just 9.4 per 100,000 in Quebec, the French-speaking province that is home to Montreal. 

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