Alberta's second-quarter Opioid Response Surveillance Report was released on Sept. 23, 2020. (File photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Red Deer reports high number of opioid deaths to start 2022

Seven opioid-poisoning deaths in Red Deer during March 2022

The first three months of 2022 have not been a positive sign when it comes to opioid deaths in Red Deer.

While opioid deaths were down throughout the province in March, Red Deer experienced one of its most deadly months since 2018.

There were seven drug poisoning deaths in Red Deer this past March, according to the Government of Alberta’s Substance Use Surveillance System. Additionally, six deaths were reported in January and February.

Seven is the highest single-month total since November 2018, when there were 10. Two other months have recorded seven between then and now: November 2020 and June 2021.

Statistics on the Substance Use Surveillance System go back to 2016. 2022’s 19 drug-poisoning deaths from January to March are higher than any other year during the same time period.

Provincially, opioid-related fatalities decreased 31 per cent in March, since peaking in December 2021.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and related public health restrictions, jurisdictions across North America have been seeing record-high rates of opioid-related fatalities, the provincial government said in a release Friday.

“While every loss of life is tragic, we are cautiously optimistic after seeing fatalities decrease in Alberta in March,” said Mike Ellis, associate minister of mental health and addictions.

“We know that the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions caused addiction deaths to increase. We hope to see the fatality rates continue to decline as we recover from the pandemic and continue to implement strategies to address the addiction crisis.”

Opioid-related fatalities provincewide in March 2022 totalled 120 – the lowest number of fatalities on record since April 2021.

Within Alberta, opioid-related fatalities peaked in December (175) and decreased in March (120) – a decrease of 31 per cent.

The peak of opioid-related fatalities in December 2021 coincides with the peak of the Omicron wave of COVID-19 and related restrictions in December 2021 and January 2022. This trend was seen across jurisdictions in North America.

Within the City of Calgary, opioid-related fatalities peaked in February 2022 (63) and decreased in March 2022 (37). This represents a decrease of 41 per cent since the peak.

Within the City of Edmonton, opioid-related fatalities peaked in December 2021 (70) and decreased in March 2022 (38) – a decrease of 46 per cent.

Opioid-related EMS responses in the week of May 23, 2022, were also the lowest on record since the first week of April 2021. Opioid-related EMS responses peaked in the last week of November 2021 and, when compared with the last week of May, have declined 62 per cent.

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