(Photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / Novic)

Opioid concerns in Grey and Bruce

People continue to die from opioid overdose in Grey and Bruce and the Health Unit is concerned.

In a presentation to the board of health, Harm Reduction Program Manager Ian Reich outlined the numbers.

Between April 2017 and April 2018, 12 people died and another 82 overdosed and were saved. More current numbers for this year are unavailable but the trend is about the same. He says the majority of deaths were people between the ages of 45 to 54, about equally men and women and from all walks of life. And overdoses are often because a pain killer prescription ends and they turn to the street.

“And without the knowledge of how to safely use street drugs, the likelihood of overdose is significantly increased,” said Reich.

Reich notes opioids are useful for pain control and not everyone who takes them gets addicted. Often it’s people with underlying emotional problems who are at risk. He says people taking painkillers should work carefully with their doctors and monitor their dosage. If problems arrive help is available through the Health Unit and social services.

Reich doesn’t minimize the problem of opioid overdose, but hesitates to call it a crisis, saying alcohol is worse.

“Alcohol causes more deaths in Grey Bruce. It causes more hospitalizations, more police calls. If we have any crisis per se alcohol is at the forefront with opioids and street drugs a near second.”

The Health Unit has set up an Opioid Working Group to tackle the issue of overdoses. It’s made up of police and fire services, school boards, hospitals and social agencies.