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Fatal opioid overdoses claim over 70 lives in AHS North Zone so far in 2020

Accidental opioid overdoses took the lives of over 70 people in Alberta Health’s North Zone in the first 10 months of 2020.

New data released by the province Friday shows a total of 83 substance deaths (any substance) between January and October.

Of the opioid-related deaths, 63 were from non-pharmaceutical opioids, with 8 linked to pharmaceutical opioids.

Non-pharmaceutical opioids are considered to be fentanyl and its related drugs, as well as heroin, while pharmaceuticals are typically prescribed opioids like codeine, hydromorphone, and methadone.

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The data comes from the new Alberta Substance Use Surveillance System, which will include monthly updates and replace the previously released quarterly reports. It includes more detailed information as well.

Data also says the AHS Opioid Dependency Program in Bonnyville has seen a growth in patients. In 2018 the clinic helped 9 people, while 45 are said to be receiving treatment through the program in 2020.

Province-wide, Premier Jason Kenney says the data shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a serious impact on people struggling with substance use. However, he notes drug fatality numbers have been trending down since July when more deaths were recorded than in any other month in the province’s history.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is not the only public health crisis in Alberta. Thousands of Albertans continue to battle mental health and addictions issues, often times made more difficult by public health measures, and Alberta’s government is firmly committed to being there to help them recover.”

Albertans struggling with addiction can contact the Addiction Helpline at 1-866-332-2322 for support, information, and referral to services. The toll-free, confidential helpline operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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