New data released by the Alberta government shows another 160 people in the province died from drug poisoning deaths in January.
The vast majority of deaths were opioid-related and took place in Calgary and Edmonton, however the city with the highest rate of overdose deaths was Lethbridge.
It was the deadliest January on record, with a 21 per cent increase in overdose deaths compared to January of last year, and a 229 per cent jump compared to January of 2020.
The newest data doesn’t leave researcher Dr. Rebecca Haines-Saah feeling very confident.
“It’s not looking like 2022 is going to be a better year,” she said.
The January numbers are lower than in final months of 2021, but Haines-Saah, an associate professor at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine, said those closest to the cause are still at a loss.
“I know people on the ground, caring for people using substances. They have been begging for policy members to listen.”
Global News requested comment from Mike Ellis, associate minister of mental health and addiction, in regards to the most recent data.
A Friday statement reads, “We are continuing to see the long-term impact that the pandemic and related restrictions are having on people with addiction. The addiction crisis is not unique to
Alberta with jurisdictions across North America seeing similar fatality rates since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The province pointed to ongoing resources for Albertans to access, such as the Digital Overdose Response System (DORS) and the Virtual Opioid Treatment Program.
Edmonton City Councillor Michael Janz wants to explore a different approach — decriminalization.
In January, he requested a report from city administration on the topic. He said the findings supported the move.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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