Pubdate: Fri, 03 Mar 2017
Source: Windsor Star (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 The Windsor Star
Author: Brian Cross
Page: A1


A "huge spike" in local opioid-related deaths - an overdose death rate
that's double the Ontario average - is one of the disturbing findings
of a health unit report that is spurring officials to quickly
collaborate on a plan of action.

"The gravity of the situation, it's prompting us to move faster," the
Windsor-Essex County Health Unit's associate medical officer of
health, Dr. Wajid Ahmed, said Thursday, expressing hope that a
coalition of local police, paramedics, hospitals and health unit
officials will devise "strong recommendations and actions to help our
community," in the next few months.

The report, released Thursday, speaks to a tripling of opioid-caused
emergency department visits between 2003 and 2015, and a near-tripling
of opioid overdose deaths in just eight years between 2007 and 2015.
The rate of overdose deaths for Windsor-Essex per 100,000 population
was 10.7 in 2015, which is double the Ontario rate of 5.1.

The opioids include codeine, fentanyl, heroin, hydromorphone,
methadone, morphine and oxycodone, according to the report, which
doesn't say which narcotic in this list of prescription and street
drugs is doing most of the damage. But Dr. Tony Hammer, a local
physician who specializes in addictions, said heroin is not a dominant
drug here. "In fact, it's fairly scarce. Here, it's oxycodone, either
in Percocet or OxyContin, and fentanyl, both the prescribed fentanyl
and the thin edge of the wedge is the (recent) arrival of the Chinese

He said no one can definitively say why this area has such high use of
opioids, but he speculates there are two reasons: the large number of
manufacturing jobs here where people get injured and then become
addicted to prescribed painkillers; and an efficient criminal
distribution system that makes the drugs easily available.

"It's devastating to individuals and their families," he said, adding
that opiate addiction fuels crime, including violent crime.

A map in the report, plotting the postal codes of people visiting
hospital emergencies for opioid-related problems, shows that downtown
Windsor and central Leamington are opioid hotbeds. Curiously, of the
43 overdose deaths in 2015, the majority, 24, were in Essex County,
with 19 in Windsor.

Dr. Ahmed said one reason for this is perhaps the longer time it takes
for paramedics to arrive at an overdose in the county and transport
the patient to hospital.

Other findings include:

A breakdown of emergency visits based on age shows the vast majority
are either 20 to 29 or 30 to 34, where the local numbers are much
higher than the provincial rates. The local rates for seniors were
significantly lower than the provincial rates.

The emergency department visits for people living downtown was 35.7
visits per 10,000 population, more than triple the average rate for
Windsor-Essex County.

Men visited the emergency at almost double the rate of women for
opioid-related reasons.

The rate of opioid-related hospitalizations has quadrupled since

Among patients in the government's Ontario Drug Benefit Program,
Windsor-Essex County ranked seventh out of 49 counties when it comes
to opioid use. The only jurisdictions worse than Essex were several
counties in the north, Brant County and the Niagara Region.

Opioid-related emergency department visits increased from 32 per
100,000 population in 2003 to 123 in 2015 for Windsor-Essex men, and
from 20 to 66 for women, rates which are both higher than provincial

"In our community we have seen a huge spike, which is definitely a
concern, so we need to take action," Ahmed said.
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MAP posted-by: Matt