A new study from the Canadian Institute for Health Information, and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse shows over the last 5 years, emergency department visits for opioid poisoning, increased dramatically in Ontario and Alberta, with our province having the largest jump in the country at 53-per cent.
Opioid poisonings, from pain-killing medications like oxycodone and morphine saw 7 ED visits in Ontario and more than 3 ED visits in Alberta every day the report said. The rate increased steadily between 2010–2011 and 2014–2015 in both provinces. The jump was 22-per cent in Ontario, while nationally the rate went up 30-per cent.
“We know that the rates of growth are highest in the younger populations,” CIHI spokesman Michael Gaucher said in an interview, agreeing that one factor is Alberta’s younger working population so the need for pain management drugs is needed to get people back to work. “That aligns with what’s maybe happening there where we’re seeing rates increasing more significantly in the young populations for both.”
He said there’s no clear breakdown yet between prescribed use, and use from illegally obtained drugs.
“On the prescription side you can think of things like how often opioids are prescribed and what doses are used and the health of the populations. On the illegal illicit side I think less is really known about what is happening there so it’s hard to really determine with any certainty.”
“We know that this isn’t the full picture,” Gaucher said. “There’s significant harms, but there’s also deaths from opioid poisonings as well that we know are occurring outside in the community and other types of harms that are occurring, so this is a partial picture.”
The report also reveals the seniors age group has accounted for the highest rate of hospitalizations, mainly because of accidental overdoses from multiple medication use. They accounted for nearly one-quarter of these hospitalizations, despite representing only 16-per cent of Canada’s population.
The visits are costly to the health care system said Gaucher. “On average it was eight days which actually is higher than some of the other types of common conditions. Emergency department visits as well, obviously there’s a cost to that too.” The report compares a five day stay for a heart attack as an example