In the first six months of 2023, Elliot Lake has already matched the total number of opioid toxicity deaths as it experienced in its previous most deadly year, according to statistics officially released Tuesday by the Office of the Chief Coroner.
According to those stats, 22 confirmed and probable opioid toxicity deaths were recorded in the entire Algoma Public Health unit for quarters 1 and 2 of 2023. Of that total, 14 deaths were recorded in Sault Ste. Marie for January to June.
In that same period, a total of five people in Elliot Lake died from opioid toxicity. That matches the total number of such deaths recorded in 2021 and 2022 combined, or the five recorded in the city’s previous deadliest year in 2020.
The overall mortality rate in the province for Q1 and Q2 of 2023 is down about 7 per cent from the same period in the previous year, but still about 68 per cent higher than the same period in 2019.
Northern Ontario public health units continue to experience the highest rates of opioid-related mortality in the province, with Sudbury, Thunder Bay and Algoma each recording just under 50 deaths per 100,000 people in the most recent full year of data available from the Office of the Chief Coroner. That’s more than double the provincial average of about 18 deaths per 100,000.
The Algoma Public Health unit’s death rate is steady compared to the previous year of data, while Thunder Bay’s has dropped dramatically in the same time period.
More than 85 per cent of opioid toxicity deaths in the province to date this year are attributed to fentanyl, while fluorofentanyl deaths increased from 1.2 per cent in 2022 to 17.5 per cent to date in 2023. The coroner’s office notes the majority of deaths involving fluorofentanyl also involve fentanyl.
Almost 75 per cent of deaths in Ontario during Q2 were by individuals aged 30 to 59 and three out of four deaths have been among males since the start of the pandemic.