In Toronto, Donna May holds a photo of her daughter Jac who died of a drug overdose in 2012. Such deaths have increased at an alarming rate in Canada.

In Toronto, Donna May holds a photo of her daughter Jac who died of a drug overdose in 2012. Such deaths have increased at an alarming rate in Canada.
Photo Credit: Nathan Denette/Canadian Press

Who’s at highest risk of death from overdose?

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People who have experienced a drug overdose are more likely to later die from an overdose. And the more times a person overdoses, the more likely he or she will die from one, according to new research from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

Public health emergency declared in B.C.

It may seem like a no-brainer but officials in western Canada are urgently looking for ways to stem the spike in such fatalities. More than 250 people have died of overdose so far this year in the province of British Columbia (B.C.) leading the government to declare a public health emergency.

U.S. prisons are showing inmates how to use naloxone to prevent death by overdose. Canada is working urgently to make the antidote easily and widely available.
U.S. prisons are showing inmates how to use naloxone to prevent death by overdose. Canada is working urgently to make the antidote easily and widely available. © David Zalubowski/AP Photo

A rush to provide life-saving antidote

The illegal traffic of the opioid fentanyl has spread eastward increasing overdose deaths in other provinces too.  The life-saving antidote naloxone is now being provided free of charge and without prescription to community pharmacies in Alberta and B.C. The federal government and the government of Ontario are working quickly to expand access to naloxone.

Safe injection kits are offered at a world-famous clinic in the western city of Vancouver. More such clinics are slated to open elsewhere in Canada to reduce overdose deaths and HIV infection.
Safe injection kits are offered at a world-famous clinic in the western city of Vancouver. More such clinics are slated to open elsewhere in Canada to reduce overdose deaths and HIV infection. © Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press/file

Why Canada?

Canada has the highest consumption of prescription of opioids for pain relief. It’s believed that many people using the drugs on the advice of their doctors have become addicted and turn to street drugs. Others use fentanyl for recreation not realizing the drug is much more powerful than morphine and that drugs produced illegally may have varying, sometime fatal doses.

How to prevent overdose

Researchers say that if health and social workers can find which people have had previous drug overdoses, they may be able to warn them of their greater risk of death or to steer them into counselling to prevent overdosing.

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One comment on “Who’s at highest risk of death from overdose?
  1. As a mother my heart goes out to Donna who lost lost her daughter to a drug overdose. As a recovering addict and author, I worry about opening more safe injection sites. I answer hundreds of calls from people who struggle with addiction and are on long wait lists for treatment beds – provided by provincial funding. Some of these folks are literally dying, in their wait. My question is this; Does the opening of more safe injection sites limit the budget for available treatment beds?