Toronto sets grim new record for suspected opioid overdose deaths in a month
Prescription pills containing oxycodone and acetaminophen are shown on June 20, 2012 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
TORONTO -- The city set a grim new record in January after 38 people died due to a suspected opioid overdose, Toronto Public Health said Friday.
TPH confirmed that Toronto Paramedic Services responded to 38 calls for suspected opioid overdose deaths last month, which prompted a drug alert to be issued.
"This is the highest number of opioid overdose-related deaths reported by paramedics in a month since we began monitoring in 2017," TPH said in a release.
It surpassed the previous high of 34 opioid deaths recorded in December 2020. TPH noted that their data does not capture all drug-related deaths.
On the last weekend of January, TPH said the city's paramedic services received the highest number of suspected opioid overdose calls in a 24-hour period, attending to 40 incidents.
"We provide this data with respect and a deep appreciation for what they mean, and how they refer to our loved ones, friends, families and colleagues," TPH said.
"We mourn the loss of lives to a long-standing drug poisoning crisis which has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic."
While there is no available information at this time on the drugs involved, TPH said teal- or turquoise-coloured drugs, including shades of blue, have been tied to some overdoses at The Works, a supervised injection site in downtown Toronto. Meanwhile, red- or burgundy-coloured drugs have been linked to overdoses in the city's northwest.
Toronto's Drug Checking Service has also recently discovered higher amounts of fentanyl, carfentanil, and central nervous system depressants in drug samples.
Mayor John Tory had said that these deaths are "tragic, unacceptable and evidence of a real health crisis" that cannot continue and needs to be fixed.