The opioid poisoning crisis in Toronto remains a serious public health issue. Preliminary data shows that in 2018 there were 1,363 opioid overdose deaths in Ontario, 294 of which were in Toronto. At the June Board of Health meeting, the Medical Officer of Health will report on actions taken over the last year to implement the Toronto Overdose Action Plan, and new recommendations identified through a recent community consultation.
More than 90 per cent of deaths caused by opioid poisoning in Ontario were accidental. Fentanyl and its analogues were the most commonly reported opioids causing accidental overdose deaths in Toronto, contributing to 79 per cent of deaths in 2018. For the majority of deaths (75 per cent), the fatal overdose occurred in a private residence. Around 60 per cent of people who died were under the age of 45.
“Too many people in our community are dying from taking drugs contaminated with fentanyl and other potent substances. These preventable deaths are devastating for the families, friends and colleagues affected by these tragedies. This is the defining health crisis of our generation and while there have been many actions taken, much more is needed. Our residents deserve evidence-based public health interventions that help them to start life healthy and stay that way for as long as possible,” said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health.
A recent Statistics Canada report indicates that life expectancy in Canada has stopped increasing for the first time in four decades as young men and women die at higher rates, mostly attributed to opioid-related overdoses.
The 2019 update to the Toronto Overdose Action Plan recommends:
• Expanding overdose initiatives for underserved groups, and in underserved geographic areas of the city.
• Providing more harm reduction services across the city, including supervised consumption services.
• Expanding overdose prevention and response measures in social housing.
• Promoting naloxone distribution and overdose training throughout the city.
• Sharing information about the opioid crisis more broadly, including how to recognize and respond to an overdose.
• Increasing treatment options, including managed opioid programs.
• Calling on the federal government to decriminalize personal possession of all drugs.
More information is available at app.toronto.ca/tmmis/decisionBodyProfile.do?function=doPrepare&meetingId=15393#Meeting-2019.HL7