Pandemic causes more opioid overdoses in Canada


(Ottawa) Luc Laplante, homeless drug addict 28 years old, has lost three of his recent friends months: they all died from an opioid overdose, a phenomenon on the rise in Canada since the coronavirus crisis.

Michel COMTE

France Media Agency

Isolation, less access to help services for drug addicts and “shooting rooms”, health priority given to COVID – 19… This increase in overdoses since the start of the pandemic has many reasons.

Luc Laplante puts forward another reason: the lack of supervision of the Canadian emergency benefit, paid by the government of Justin Trudeau to ensure a monthly income of 2000 Canadian dollars (1300 euros) to workers who find themselves without income because of the coronavirus.

According to him, the government attributed this bonus without too strict controls, at the risk of seeing fraud multiply.

“People have requested government financial assistance related to COVID – 19 and the 'then spent on drugs,' he says, a few hours after surviving an overdose of fentanyl, a potent opiate.

The Ontario “coroner”, the public officer responsible for investigating violent or suspicious deaths, estimates that the number of fatal overdoses has increased by 19% in the past three months.

In British Columbia (west), the number of overdose deaths jumped by 40% compared to the same period last year.

“Dramatically, other jurisdictions across the country are reporting similar trends,” said the administrator of Canada's public health agency, Theresa Tam, last month.

Double health crisis

D r Tam reported “clusters of overdoses due to unknown or unusual mixtures of illicit toxic substances ”in several cities, including Toronto and Calgary.

British Columbia chief physician Bonnie Henry held back tears at a recent press conference after announcing that 170 deaths from overdoses in May were greater than the number of coronavirus deaths in the province.

“COVID – 19 is not our only health crisis”, he said. she pointed out.

In Ottawa, three “shooting rooms” in the Lower Town district, in the center of the capital, have halved the number of places reserved for drug addicts, in order to comply with the new distancing rules.

Luc Laplante explains that he was alone in a parking lot when he injected himself with a dose on Monday evening, in order to relieve knee pain.

It was a “stronger batch of drugs” than what he used to take, insists Mr. Laplante, after being revived by paramedics, warned by a passerby.

“We already had a lot to deal with the opioid crisis, but we were making progress. Then the pandemic struck, deplores Anne Marie Hopkins, of the community organization Ottawa Inner City Health, which manages a supervised injection center.

M me Hopkins says that some of the people she helped have received the government subsidy, which they then used to pay for a hotel room where they died of an overdose, alone.

According to a study by the University of British Columbia published on Thursday, 59% of Canadians with mental health problems, who may find themselves homeless and addicted, experienced a decline in their well-being during the pandemic.

For M me Hopkins, “It's a scary time for many people already suffering from trauma. ”