Fentanyl related deaths continue to rise in Lethbridge according to Alberta Health report

By Lara Fominoff @LaraFominoff on Twitter
August 31, 2018 - 2:35pm Updated: September 3, 2018 - 8:44pm

LETHBRIDGE - Alberta Health has released its second quarter Opioid Response Surveillance Report, and the number of overdose deaths, especially related to fentanyl, are still rising.

According to the report, in Lethbridge alone, from Jan. 1 to June 30, there were 17 deaths related to apparent accidental fentanyl overdoses. That's one more death than the 16 that occurred in all of 2017.

By comparison, Red Deer, which has a population comparable to that of Lethbridge, there have so far been 24 fentanyl-related deaths this year. There were 23 in all of 2017.

In Medicine Hat, there were four fentanyl related deaths, and in the entire South Health Zone, there were 26. Carfentanil accounted for 4 deaths in the South Health Zone, but it's not clear from the report if those occurred in Lethbridge or the surrounding areas.

There was one non-fentanyl related opioid death in the south zone in the second quarter, however there were none in Lethbridge.

Province-wide, the most up-to-date data shows that 355 people died from an apparent accidental opioid overdose in the first six months of 2018. On average, 2 individuals die every day in Alberta as a result of an apparent accidental opioid overdose.

The report also states that province-wide, among all alcohol and drug poisoning deaths both accidental and suicide, in 2017 and 2018, opioids (fentanyl or non-fentanyl) were directly involved in 78 per cent of deaths.

Just 22 per cent of all confirmed drug and alcohol poisoning deaths province-wide (accidental and suicide) did not involve any opioid.

The rate of Emergency Room visits related to opioid substance use and misuse continues to be the highest in the south zone, with 402 visits per 100,000-person years. Chinook Hospital continues to appear in the top 10 of all health care centres in the province for rate of ER visits related to overdoses.

The report also shows that in the south zone, the rate of naloxone/buprenorphine dispensed from all sources including harm reduction agencies, hospitals, pharmacies, community and post-secondary centres from January 2018 to June 30, was 231 per cent higher than the provincial average.

Across the province, altogether there are about 1,577 naloxone kits dispensed per month.

The rate of methadone dispensed in the south zone is also 177 per cent higher than the provincial average.

Since the Supervised Consumption Site (SCS) opened in Lethbridge February 28, there have been 42,251 visits to the site and 445 overdose reversals as of July 31. 

Those numbers far exceed even those in Calgary (opened Oct. 31, 2017) and Edmonton (three of four sites opened), at 27,023 visits and 15,225 visits respectively. 

For more information, go to http://www.alberta.ca/assets/documents/opioid-substances-misuse-report-2018-q2.pdf


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