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Toronto sees increase in opioid-related overdose deaths: public health officials

Last Updated Sep 26, 2020 at 10:57 pm EDT

FILE - This Feb. 19, 2013, file photo shows OxyContin pills arranged for a photo at a pharmacy in Montpelier, Vt. Purdue, the maker of OxyContin, is facing about 2,500 lawsuits seeking to hold it accountable for the opioid crisis, which has killed more than 400,000 people in the U.S. since 2000. (AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File)

Toronto has seen an increase in opioid-related overdose deaths this month, public health officials said Saturday.

Between Sept. 14 and Sept 23, 11 people are suspected to have died from overdoses of opioids, according to data gathered by Toronto Paramedic Services.

A total of 19 people are thought to have died due to overdoses so far this month, public health said in a news release.

“This is already higher than the average number of monthly suspected opioid overdose-related deaths reported prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (13 deaths on average from March 2017 to Feb. 2020),” the release said.  “The monthly average number of suspected opioid overdose-related deaths during the pandemic (from April to Aug. 2020) is 21.”

Officials added that data from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario indicates that between Sept. 14 and Sept. 20, 17 people have died from overdoses for all drug types in the city.

“This is a 113 per cent increase compared to the median number of weekly drug-related deaths that occurred in 2019,” they said. “Overall, preliminary data for Toronto from the coroner indicates an increase in suspected drug-related deaths in 2020, with a weekly median of 13, compared to eight in 2019.”

A toxic drug supply, along with the COVID-19 pandemic appears to have made the opioid crisis in the city worse, officials said.

“We mourn the loss of lives to the long-standing opioid crisis,” public health said.