In Ontario, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the ongoing opioid overdose crisis, leading to a significant rise in unintentional deaths due to opioid-related toxicity. Specifically, between February 2020 – the month before Ontario declared a State of Emergency due to COVID-19 – and December 2020, there was a 79% increase in the number of opioid-related deaths across the province.
There is an urgent need to better understand patterns of healthcare use among people who died of an opioid-related toxicity during the pandemic, particularly amid the pandemic-mandated disruptions to healthcare services and increasing rates of opioid-related death since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help address this need, a report was developed that describes the characteristics of people who died of an accidental opioid-related toxicity in Ontario prior to the pandemic (March to December 2019) and during the first two waves of the pandemic (March to December 2020). The report was produced in collaboration with Public Health Ontario, Ontario Forensics Pathology Services, Office of the Coroner for Ontario, the Ontario Opiod Drug Observatory and the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network.
A summary of the report’s findings can be read in the below infographic, and the report can be found here.