Researchers from the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN), the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario and Public Health Ontario have released a report which describes the characteristics of people who died of an accidental opioid-related toxicity in Ontario prior to the pandemic and during the first two waves of the pandemic. It also describes patterns of healthcare use and medication use prior to death.
Key findings include:
- One in four had a healthcare encounter in the week prior to death, and half had an encounter in the month prior to death.
- One in three people who died during the pandemic had accessed opioid agonist treatment in the past five years, and only one in 10 in the past 30 days.
- Among people actively treated with methadone at time of death, two-thirds had visited an outpatient clinic in the week prior, highlighting another opportunity to connect people to additional supports.
- Two in three deaths occurred among people with evidence of an opioid use disorder (OUD), meaning that a third of fatal overdoses may be occurring among people without OUD diagnoses, or who may only intermittently or occasionally use drugs.
The data show people who died from opioid overdose frequently interacted with the healthcare system – defined as outpatient visits, primary care visits, emergency department visits or hospital admission – in the week and month before death. The findings also show that only a quarter of those who died had a recent opioid prescription prior to death, and almost half of the time this prescription was for methadone – a synthetic opioid used to treat opioid use disorder.
Read the full report on the OPDRN website.