Sudbury area sees increase in opioid deaths and overdoses in 2021

Recent numbers from Sudbury's Community Drug Strategy group show an increase in opioid-related deaths and overdoses in 2021.

It’s a continuing trend over recent years and officials hope prevention, harm reduction and education will help decrease those numbers in 2022.

The numbers show there were 54 opioid overdose deaths in the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts from January to September of 2021, up from 44 deaths in the same period in 2020.

"The drug supply continues to be increasingly toxic and, you know, we have had an impact as a result of the pandemic that we have less access, borders closing," said Shana Calix, the co-chair of the Sudbury Community Drug Strategy.

"And so that means that the drug supply is getting much more toxic and as a result, it’s having an effect on a number of our community members here in Sudbury."

Calix said education will continue to be a big focus in the coming year to help overcome stigmas associated with drug use.

"You are not sure who may be using substances, it’s a really hard topic to talk about. We want to encourage people to continue to come out and discuss because that is how you can get more supports. And if you can talk more about it in ways that are less stigmatizing, it will allow people to feel more comfortable coming out and talking about their own substance use," she said.

Neil Stephen is the manager of consumption and treatment services at Reseau Access Network. The non-profit agency will be the service provider for the consumption and treatment services site that is currently under construction at Energy Court in Sudbury.

"We have got a significant increase in opioid-related overdoses and the tainted and toxic drug crisis that is in Sudbury area right now. So it gives us the ability to be on scene and to help respond to lower the chances of a death or various complications and a result of their consumption," Stephen said.

The Community Drug Strategy said it hopes the site will be operational by the spring and will make a difference to help decrease the number of opioid-related overdoses and deaths in 2022.