Pubdate: Sat, 23 Sep 2017
Source: St. Thomas Times-Journal (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Sun Media
Author: Laura Broadley
Page: A2


The opioid crisis plaguing much of Canada has made its mark on
southwestern Ontario's emergency rooms.

Visits to the region's emergency rooms for opioid overdoses went up
almost 28 per cent from 281 in 2015 to 359 in 2016, according to
statistics recently released by Public Health Ontario.

Divided by health unit, Chatham-Kent, and Lambton and Huron numbers
actually dipped in 2016 compared to 2015 while Elgin-St. Thomas,
Middlesex-London and Oxford numbers skyrocketed.

"We've seen high rates of overdose here for several years. We've seen
the hospital rates go up," said Dr. Chris Mackie, medical officer of
health for the London-Middlesex Health Unit.

The same set of statistics showed that visits to the emergency
department for opioid overdoses more than doubled from January to
March of 2017 in the Elgin-St. Thomas area compared to the same period
last year. While in the London-Middlesex area, numbers for that period
dropped from 43 in 2016 to 35 in 2017.

Mackie said the most concerning thing is that there was a peak of
opioid overdose deaths in 2012 about a year or so after the
hospitalization rates went up.

"I'm concerned that we may see that peak of deaths come up again in
the next year or two," Mackie said.

Opioid related deaths in southwestern Ontario went up by about 10 per
cent from 2015 to 2016.

The brain quickly develops a tolerance to opioids. Eventually the dose
a person needs to get the same "high" approaches the overdose levels,
Mackie said.

"If what we're seeing is people using more opioids now then we could
very well see that same pattern where people use more until we have
another spate of overdose deaths," Mackie said.

Mackie said there are two major strategies the Middlesex-London Health
Unit is working on currently. The first is distributing the antidote
to opioids, naloxone.

"We know the most likely people to be present at an overdose are other
users. It's a very empowering model," Mackie said.

Mackie said there are assumptions that if you give drug users naloxone
they will use more, but he said that's not the case.

"In fact the opposite is true," Mackie said.

Once you give a person a sense of control they tend to be more
responsible with their drug use and there are less overdoses, Mackie

Another harm reduction strategy the health unit is employing is
looking at supervised injection sites, which has trained people in
locations where this activity is happening in a safe, controlled
environment. The idea is to get the drug use off the streets, Mackie

Dr. Joyce Lock, medical officer of health for Elgin-St. Thomas Public
Health, said they've seen a trend over the last 10 years of opioid
related visits to the hospital.

"The rates are still quite low," Lock said.

Lock said the number of prescriptions for opioids over those years has
gone up, which has contributed to the problem.

"I'm not that surprised about it all," Lock said.

Trends across the province show that southwestern Ontario isn't the
only region struggling with opioid related overdoses at emergency

 From April to June of 2017 there were 1,898 visits to the emergency
rooms of Ontario hospitals from opioid related overdoses up almost 78
per cent from 1,069 visits during the same period last year.

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Opioid related deaths by health unit

2016 2015

Chatham-Kent 3 3

Elgin-St. Thomas 5 4

Huron County 4 2

Lambton 5 11

Middlesex-London 30 25

Oxford County 7 4

Source: Public Health Ontario

- --- --- ---

Opioid related visits to the emergency department

2016 2015

Chatham-Kent 33 38

Elgin-St. Thomas 41 28

Huron County 11 12

Lambton 47 53

Middlesex-London 188 129

Oxford County 39 21

Source: Public Health Ontario

- --- --- ---

Opioid related hospitalizations

2016 2015

Chatham-Kent 32 21

Elgin-St. Thomas 35 14

Huron County 12 12

Lambton 47 31

Middlesex-London 108 91

Oxford County 21 15

Source: Public Health Ontario
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MAP posted-by: Matt