New numbers released by the province Friday show 113 people died of apparent fentanyl overdoses in Alberta in the first three months of 2017.
That compares to 70 deaths over the same period of time in 2016. In the last three months of 2016, there were 119 fentanyl-related deaths in Alberta.
“It’s too early yet to say if we’re levelling off, so we’ll have to keep an eye on it as things progress,” said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health.
“Obviously a lot of people [are] still dying. That’s a very big concern for us.”
Alberta Health said 91 per cent of the deaths so far this year occurred in larger cities, with 51 deaths in the Calgary area and 36 in the Edmonton region.
The following maps outline in which areas of each of Alberta’s two largest cities opioid overdose deaths occurred in 2016.
“The majority of the deaths, if you look by number, are occurring outside the downtown core,” Grimsrud said.
“That kind of information is going to help us and help public health folks in Edmonton Zone look at what interventions they can put in place.”
The crisis has led to a significant increase in hospital visits over the past couple of years. In 2016, there were 9,037 emergency and urgent care visits related to opioids and other substances, Alberta Health said. That compares to 7,516 visits in 2015.
Naloxone kits have been available in Alberta pharmacies since January 2016. In May 2016, the province made the kits available without a prescription in Alberta. Naloxone is used to block the effects of opioids, including fentanyl.
Between Jan. 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017, 8,544 naloxone kits were distributed in Alberta.
Alberta Health said the Edmonton Zone has had the largest volume of naloxone kits dispensed from community pharmacies, with an average of 116 kits per month. By comparison, an average of 107 naloxone kits are dispensed in the Calgary Zone each month.
Alberta Health said about 1,130 people have reported back to say the naloxone kits have helped reverse an overdose.
The full report from Alberta Health can be viewed below: