Canada sets record for overdose deaths as opioid epidemic grows

Canada has recorded a new record of more than 7,500 illicit drug-overdose deaths from accidental overdoses since 2013, a trend that highlights the growing reach of the epidemic that experts say is largely related to fentanyl and other synthetic opioids.

In Canada, the pace of overdose deaths accelerated last year as it lagged the previous year. It now is at 15.7 per 100,000 population, according to a report issued this month by the Yukon coroner. Yukon’s 2017 overdose death rate was 11.2, which was the country’s highest rate of overdose fatalities among the 12 Canadian provinces and territories.

An average of just under 1,700 people in Canada died of illicit drug overdoses in 2016 — a 10-fold increase since 1999, and a rate of almost 10 overdose deaths per 100,000 population.

In 2017, the rate of overdose deaths in Canada’s Eastern Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island rose to about 20 per 100,000 population, according to the report.

The rate of overdose deaths among Canadians older than 45 surpassed that of Canadian youths, the report noted. “There has been a consistent and significant rise in overdoses among people aged 45 and older,” the report stated.

The three provinces most heavily impacted by the spike in overdoses are in British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec. Fatal overdoses in B.C. have risen 88 percent in the last three years, while deaths in Quebec are up 102 percent and in Ontario 103 percent, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, which tracks overdose data.

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