Medicine Hat News


– Local numbers trend up

- GILLIAN SLADE gslade@medicineha­ Twitter: MHNGillian­Slade

The number of drug related deaths in Medicine Hat, up to October this year, is slightly less than it was for the whole of 2019, according to the latest numbers released by the provincial government.

Medicine Hat hit a peak in 2018 with 19 deaths and then it fell slightly to 14 in 2019. The number for the first 10 months of this year has been 11.

In 2016 Medicine Hat had 8 drug related deaths. Methamphet­amine is listed as the drug, and for two it was cocaine.

In 2017 Medicine Hat had 14 drug related deaths, of which six listed methamphet­amine and one cocaine.

Of the 19 drug related deaths in 2018, five were connected to methamphet­amine and two cocaine. In 2019 of the 14 deaths, eight were connected to methamphet­amine and four cocaine. Of the 11 so far this year, five were connected to methamphet­amine and two cocaine.

Across the entire province there were 957 drug related deaths in 2018 and 800 in

2019. Up until October this year there were 1,029 deaths.

The government says the number of deaths reached a peak in July and then declined 33 per cent in August, September and October. In the same time frame the number of emergency medical services responses decreased 36 per cent.

Earlier in the pandemic a disruption to usual supply chains of illicit drugs was considered a contributi­ng factor to the lower numbers earlier in the year. It was anticipate­d that new supplies would become available but that they’d be contaminat­ed, resulting in unintentio­nal drug overdoses.

It has been previously suggested that a safe supply of drugs for those dealing with an addiction would address this.

“Associate Minister Jason Luan has spoke extensivel­y about our position on ‘safe supply.’ We believe the focus needs to be on a comprehens­ive and full continuum of care. We do not believe that the solution to the addiction challenges our province faces is to support putting more opioids on the street,” said Kassandra Kitz, spokespers­on for Luan.

Portugal’s decriminal­ization of drugs and a program to address dependency by providing a substitute such as methadone and suboxone, has attracted attention around the world. That country has mobile trucks that regularly arrive at locations around Lisbon to dispense methadone.

There are no plans for a system like that in Alberta.

“Alberta already supports 10 opioid dependency clinics across the province, which are accessible to people needing opioid dependency therapy, like methadone. They can also access the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program, which currently has no wait list,” said Kitz.

Albertans struggling with addiction can contact the Addiction Helpline at 1-866332-2322 for support, informatio­n and referral to services. The toll-free, confidenti­al helpline operates 24/7.

 ?? NEWS FILE PHOTO ?? Drug-related deaths in Medicine Hat this year nearly surpassed 2019 figures in the first nine months.
NEWS FILE PHOTO Drug-related deaths in Medicine Hat this year nearly surpassed 2019 figures in the first nine months.

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