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Two people a day die of opioid ODs in Ontario: study

Two people a day die of opioid ODs in Ontario: study
Health
TORONTO - More than two people each day are dying of opioid overdoses in Ontario, a grim tally that underscores the soaring use and abuse of the potent narcotics, researchers say.

"What we also found really interesting was the types of opioids involved in those deaths and how those have changed over time," said lead author Tara Gomes, a scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences and St. Michael s Hospital in Toronto.

"What we don t know in Ontario is the degree to which the illicit form of fentanyl is really driving the increases we re seeing, compared to fentanyl patches that are being prescribed by physicians and then diverted onto the street," said Gomes, adding that B.C. has witnessed "an enormous rise" in illicit fentanyl deaths in the last two years.

"The presence of these other drugs may be indicative of the concerning practice of combining cocaine with illicitly produced fentanyl, which is relatively inexpensive, to extend the drug supply," said Gomes.

"And we re seeing a fair amount of stories about people using cocaine who end up dying of a fentanyl overdose because they don t realize they re taking an opioid and may never have been exposed to an opioid before," she said. "They may have simply been cocaine users."

Gomes said it will need a multi-pronged approach, including altering doctors prescribing patterns to prevent people becoming addicted to the drugs, while helping those who are already dependent on the painkillers to pare down their medicinal use without driving them toward more dangerous forms of illicit opioids.

She said other public health measures need to include increased addiction treatment programs, harm-reduction strategies such as safe-injection sites, and more widespread access to the overdose-reversal medication naloxone, "so we can avoid some of the fatal consequences of these drugs."
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