New government data shows a spike in opioid-related deaths in Ontario for much of last year compared to 2016, prompting the province to make Narcan nasal spray available — free of charge — in pharmacies by the end of the month.
The province said there were 1,053 opioid-related deaths from January to October 2017, compared with 694 during the same time period in 2016.
It also said there were there were 7,658 emergency department visits related to opioid overdoses from January to October of last year, up from 4,453 during the same time period the previous year.
The new figures are being released as the government said Ontario pharmacies are providing another version of an overdose-reversing drug for free.
Naloxone nasal spray will be available in pharmacies by the end of the month at no charge, in addition to existing naloxone kits that include an injectable version of the drug meant as an emergency treatment for opioid overdoses.
The Ontario government has pledged to spend more than $222 million over three years to tackle the growing opioid crisis in the province, with money earmarked to expand harm reduction services and hiring more frontline staff.
Health Minister Helena Jaczek said the province is doing everything it can to combat what she calls an “avoidable tragedy.”