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Kawartha Lakes impacted by the provincial opioid overdose crisis

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: At a meeting of the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit on Thursday, April 20th, local medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking provided an update on the opioid overdose crisis.

“We are impacted, perhaps not equally as some other health units, but absolutely impacted by this provincial crisis,” Dr. Bocking told members.

The data she provided showed an increase in opioid-related hospital admissions starting in 2016 and an increase in opioid-related deaths starting in 2018.

“The number of [admissions] to emergency departments for overdose-related presentations has increased dramatically. Particularly in [Kawartha Lakes] and Northumberland County,” Dr. Bocking explained.

The data also showed the “pandemic has made this crisis worse,” with emergency department visits peaking in 2021.

While death numbers have shown a decrease for 2022, Dr. Bocking cautioned, “There is a lag of when we have confirmed numbers related to deaths because often these deaths become coroner’s investigations.”

Health Units have started to see the cause of these overdoses change to having more inhalation-related deaths rather than injection related.

“The supply has been contaminated with opioids and with other substances. While someone may think they were inhaling, say, crack cocaine or crystal meth, that substance could now contain fentanyl. They might not know that, and they might overdose from opioids as a result,” Dr. Bocking explained.

She noted there have been other substances contaminating the drug supply as well, such as benzodiazepines and xylazine.

“The challenge with these other substances is naloxone doesn’t work to reverse those overdoses.”

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