Calgary lost 76 people to drug poisoning in April, the worst month on record

The latest data on opioid use and addiction across the country was released Monday, highlighting worrisome numbers for Calgary and the province of Alberta.

April was the worst month so far this year for drug poisonings in the city, with 76 recorded deaths from non-pharmaceutical opioids like fentanyl – the most in a single month since recording began in 2016.

Those deaths were among the 602 reported across Alberta in the first fourth months of 2023.

So far this year, there have been 224 opioid-related deaths in Calgary, roughly half of the 468 deaths reported for all of 2022.

Across the country, more than 7,300 Canadians died of opioid poisoning, according to Health Canada – an average of 20 per day.

The agency adds the majority of deaths occurred in Alberta, B.C., and Toronto.

Men accounted for the majority of accidental opioid toxicity deaths in 2022 at 74 per cent.

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Most of those who died in drug poisonings, both male and female, were between the age of 20 and 59.

In a statement released Monday, the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Dan Williams said more needs to be done to support treatment and recovery from addiction.

“As Alberta’s government, we recognize the devastating losses felt by families and communities as a result of addiction, drug abuse and illicit trafficking. The most recent drug fatality data confirms why addressing drug use and illicit trafficking must be top of mind, and my heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one,” he said.

“Today is a reminder that we need to create a better Alberta for our children and grandchildren. Our vision for Alberta is one where families have an opportunity to live in healthy communities that are free of illicit drug use and trafficking. Our vision is one where those suffering with addiction have immediate access to treatment and the opportunity to pursue recovery.”

The Opposition NDP is accusing Premier Danielle Smith of lying about her success on drug treatments while “six Albertans were dying every day.”

“The human cost of Danielle Smith’s dishonesty and incompetence is heartbreaking,” said Lori Sigurdson, NDP MLA for Edmonton-Riverview, in a press release. “While the death toll from preventable drug poisonings was surging, and we should have been mobilizing every resource to respond, Smith was lying to Albertans that she had solved the problem.

“How many Albertans died waiting for help that never came?”

Sigurdson continued to say that Smith claimed “great progress” on drug poisonings before and during the election campaign, and told Albertans her chief of staff was a national leader on the issue.

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