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HomeHealth and LifestyleOpioid deaths skyrocket in Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough

Opioid deaths skyrocket in Kawartha Lakes and Peterborough

KAWARTHA LAKES-The number of people in Kawartha Lakes region who died from an opioid overdose jumped 5 fold in the first six months of 2018 according to the most recent statistics available from the Coroners Office.

From January 2018 to June 2018, 11 people died (confirmed and probable)of an opioid overdose in the City of Kawartha Lakes/Haliburton/Northumberland cachement area. That’s up sharply from only 2 deaths in the first six months of 2017 and more than the entire year .

“The presence of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues in the illicit drug supply has been increasing, and this has been attributed to an increase in unintentional overdoses and deaths. And this poisoning crisis shows no signs of slowing down.” Megan Deyman, Coordinator – Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy told Kawartha 411 News.

Donna Matthews 24 year old son Eric could have been another statistic. She says her son has unresolved trauma from a childhood tragedy that led to drug addiction. “My beautiful son is struggling with drug addiction that is killing the youth of Peterborough.” Matthews says, “At least 8 have died here recently and this is an epidemic that is killing our children.”

We don’t have the most recent statistics to back that up, but deaths from Opioids in Peterborough also surged in the first six months of 2018. (January to June) In the first half of 2018 there were 15 reported deaths from opioids while the same time in 2017 there were only 5 deaths.

“People are not talking about it …both parents, youth and loved ones are suffering …and everyone is too afraid or embarrassed to speak.” Matthews says.

In June 2017, 21 year old year old Keagen Carson-Schiberras of Lakefield died of a drug overdose. He was clean for 72 days but was on a waiting list for government funded rehab. “It took them three weeks just to get the paperwork done for rehab. Then he finally got on the list and they said it would be 40-60 days before a spot opened up” his mom Wendy told Kawartha 411 at the time.  Read the full story here:https://www.kawartha411.ca/2017/06/14/the-end-of-innocence-lakefield-family-speaks-out-after-son-dies-from-a-drug-overdose/

Emergency Department visits also saw a sharp increase in the first half of 2018. From January to June 2017 there were 38 Ed visits in the Kawartha Lakes Health Unit cachement area versus 67 ED visits in that same period in 2018. Hospitalization rates remained about the same.

In Peterborough the number of ED visits jumped from 48 in the first half of 2017 to 91 in the first 6 months of 2018.

Prescription opioids are powerful, pain-reducing medications derived from the opium poppy (or a synthetic version of it).  They include oxycodone, hydrocodone and fentanyl, among others. The most common prescription opioid products which include Vicodin, Dilaudid, Demoral, Duramorph, Roxanol, OcyContin, Oxycodone,Percodan and Percocet. These products and others are often prescribed in the treatment cancer and chronic non-cancer related pain.

Many people who become addicted to opioids were legitimately prescribed them for pain.

Studies show you can become addicted to opioids after as little as five days according to research done by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

The study also found doctors who limit the supply of opioids they prescribe to three days or less may help patients avoid the dangers becoming addicted.

Matthews knows all too well how addictive opioids are. She witnessed Eric’s withdrawal and says it was “horrific”. “He was in so much pain, begging for me to help him.” she explains. “I felt so helpless, there was nothing I could do to take his pain away.” Matthews knew her son couldn’t wait for government funded rehab so she found him a private bed.

Locally, the Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy was developed in 2016 with the aim to reduce the harms associated with substance use in the 3 counties. The Drug Strategy uses a four-pillar approach to draw upon the expertise of local champions in the prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and justice and enforcement sectors.

“In 2017 the Drug Strategy completed a community consultation process that involved over 600 responses from community members and service providers throughout the 3 counties to identify priorities for addressing substance use-related concerns.”Deyman explains. “This process concluded that timely response to opioid-related events, as well as increasing awareness and education around substance use, generally, were identified priorities.”

Deyman says member agencies on the Drug Strategy already provide a number of services and resources to reduce the harm associated with substance use, including:

  • Access to naloxone kits and overdose prevention training
  • Needle exchange programs
  • Community withdrawal programs, and
  • Physicians that provide access to addiction medicine and subsequent addiction supports
  • The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, and
  • Police diversion programs

The Ontario Government announced on Wednesday a new bilateral agreement with the Feds to provide Ontario with an additional $51.1 million to support treatment services for opioid use disorder. “These funds will be used to enhance existing treatment approaches, and to implement strategies to enhance access to treatment services.” David Jensen, Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, explained to Kawartha 411 News.

This includes:

  • Improving access to Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine Clinics, community and residential withdrawal management services, and health care professionals with expertise in addictions
  • Improving access to culturally appropriate care for Indigenous communities
  • Supporting better integration of and connection to treatment through harm reduction services and supports.

“It may also be important to note here that the number of people who are seeking treatment for their opioid addictions has also been increasing across the province.” says Deyman.

In 2017, 1265 people died from an opioid overdose in Ontario.

A fundraiser has been set up to help defray the costs of private rehab for Eric. Private beds can run as high as $1,000 a day. Click here for details on the fundraiser: https://www.facebook.com/donate/317670365513634/1302021469951677/

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Pamela Vanmeer
Pamela Vanmeerhttps://www.kawartha411.ca/
Pamela VanMeer is a two time winner of the prestigious Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) Award. Her investigative reports on abuse in Long Term Care Homes garnered international attention for the issue and won the Ron Laidlaw Award. She is a former reporter and anchor at CHEX News, now Global Peterborough and helped launch the New CHEX Daily, a daily half hour talk show. While at CHCH News in Hamilton she covered some of the biggest news stories of the day.

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