August 31 as ‘Overdose Awareness Day’ marked by City of Toronto

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Toronto Public Health and the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel along with community partners are recognizing the official proclamation of August 31 as Overdose Awareness Day in Toronto. This day is recognized around the world in remembrance of individuals who have lost their lives to overdose and as a reminder that these deaths are preventable.

Drug overdose is a significant public health issue in Toronto, with devastating impacts on individuals, families and communities.

“Over the past decade, we’ve seen a 77 per cent increase in the number of deaths due to overdose,” said Councillor Joe Cressy (Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina), Chair of the Toronto Drug Strategy Implementation Panel. “The overdose death numbers are staggering, but behind the numbers are people. Today marks an important day to remember these individuals. It also serves as a reminder that drug use is complicated and requires a comprehensive response that includes prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.”

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Overdose deaths, including but not limited to those from opioid use, have been increasing in Toronto. In 2004, 146 individuals died from overdose in Toronto (involving opioids as well as other drugs). The total number climbed to 258 individuals in 2014 – the highest annual number to date.

The number of accidental deaths caused by opioids in particular rose from 44 in 2004 to 127 a decade later, in 2014.

“Drug overdose is a significant public health issue in Toronto, as it is across North America, with devastating impacts for individuals and families in our community. Of particular concern is the increasing role of opioids, such as heroin and fentanyl, in drug-related deaths,” said Dr. Rita Shahin, Associate Medical Officer of Health, Toronto Public Health. “This day is important to remember those affected by overdose and highlights the need to continue harm reduction work in our community.”

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Harm reduction continues to be a cornerstone of Toronto Public Health’s efforts in responding to drug use in the city. Since 1989, Toronto Public Health through The Works has been delivering harm reduction services to people who use drugs. More information about The Works and the Toronto Drug Strategy is available at – CINEWS

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