1 in 8 deaths among Ontario young adults were attributable to opioids

CanadaA study of opioid-related deaths in Ontario was recently published. There were some really stunning findings.

First, over 20 years, the opioid-related death rate increased by 242%.

During the 20-year study period, we identified 5935 people whose deaths were opioid-related in Ontario. The median age at death was 42 years (interquartile range 34–50 years), 64.4% (n = 3822) of decedents were men and 90.0% (n = 5340) lived in an urban neighborhood. During the study period, rates of opioid-related death increased dramatically, rising 242% from 12.2 deaths per million in 1991 (127 deaths annually) to 41.6 deaths per million in 2010 (550 deaths annually; Figure 1).

Second, young adults have been hit especially hard. [emphasis mine]

The highest absolute increase occurred among individuals aged 25–34 years, in whom the proportion of deaths related to opioids increased from 3.3% in 1992 to 12.1% in 2010.

. . .

The finding that one in eight deaths among young adults were attributable to opioids underlines the urgent need for a change in perception regarding the safety of these medications.


When we see these kinds of statistics in the US, we’re left to wonder the role that poor treatment access played.

We conducted a serial cross-sectional study of all opioid-related deaths in Ontario, Canada between 1 January 1991 and 31 December 2010. Ontario is Canada’s largest province, with more than 13.2 million residents in 2010, all of whom have access to publicly funded health insurance for physician and hospital services.

I don’t know much about the kind of treatment that’s been available to Ontario addicts. It’d be interesting to learn more about that.



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5 responses to “1 in 8 deaths among Ontario young adults were attributable to opioids

  1. zombiemike

    In my uninformed, anecdotal opinion, beds in treatment centres are very limited for those coming in through OHIP (provincial health insurance). At least in my case, I would have had to wait almost a year for one of the 3 beds at the treatment centre I went to. I ended up getting coverage with my own health insurance through work. This was just at one treatment centre though.