Coronavirus: Ontario opioid crisis worsens during pandemic as services for drug users scale back

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TORONTO – Harm reduction workers battling Ontario’s opioid crisis say COVID-19 is making the situation worse, as police and public health officials in Toronto report a spike in overdoses and related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Nick Boyce, of the Ontario Harm Reduction Network, said the dramatic measures that have been implemented to slow the spread of the new coronavirus are limiting drug users’ access to support services that help prevent overdose deaths.

“We have these two crises where you have the drug crisis intersecting now with another serious public health crisis and the most marginalized folks are the ones bearing the brunt,” he said.

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“Their access to any sort of supports has been significantly reduced, if not eliminated.”

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Boyce said the restrictive measures have also increased the risk of overdose for people consuming illegal drugs in isolation.

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Toronto Public Health said data from the city’s paramedic service for March and preliminary figures for April show a spike in suspected overdoses and deaths.

In March, there were 345 suspected opioid overdose calls and 19 deaths.



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