Thursday, April 18, 2024

Hamilton sees increase in opioid-related paramedic calls since 2017

First Published:

New information on the ongoing opioid crisis in Hamilton shows there’s been an increase in opioid-related paramedic calls and suspected drug-related deaths since 2017.

The information was presented to the city’s public health committee on Tuesday.

Hamilton paramedics and a university psychologist say drugs and addiction don’t discriminate, but there are some sectors of the population that are more at risk.

“Paramedics are actually well versed in responding to opioid overdoses, we’ve been using naloxone to reverse overdoses for several decades now,” Hamilton Paramedic Superintendent David Thompson said.

“Some of the other things we’ve done, we’ve shifted towards more harm reduction. So, our naloxone distribution program, where paramedics are handing out naloxone to people, or there’s a 911 response or a walk up response, as well as our harm reduction program which gives people access to sterile supplies.”

READ MORE: Overdose crisis increases as drug prevention groups sound alarm

Information in a new health report presented to the city today shows opioid related calls and suspected drug deaths continue to be a significant public health burden.

Since January 2017, the majority of drug related calls and deaths – 75 percent – were male, and the average age was 38 years.

In 2023, Hamilton paramedic services responded to 964 suspected opioid overdoses.

That’s about 80 per month, which is up from 2018 when paramedics responded to approximately 450 calls, or around 38 per month.

“There are areas within the city that we do respond to higher call volumes of opioids, but addictions don’t discriminate, so it can be in the street, someone’s residence, anywhere really,” Thompson said

READ MORE: Health officials call for more safe consumption sites in Hamilton

Taryn Grieder, a psychology professor with the University of Toronto, said there is just a lot more stress in our society.

“We’ve seen that in times of stress the overdoses increase, the drug use just in general increases,” Grieder said.

“If you remember during the pandemic we saw a big spike in it as well, so right now the stress that we’re experiencing is financial stress.”

Grieder also said there are some people who are more at risk.

“People in marginalized populations, so minority races, people that are experiencing disability, or are experiencing homelessness, people from lower socio economic status just in general. I mean, addiction doesn’t discriminate by any means but there are people who seem to be more vulnerable, people with less education,” Greider said.

And Grieder said the more factors a person is facing, the greater risk they have for addiction and overdose.

Hamilton public health services says there are many programs and supports out there. For more information you can visit hamilton.ca/naloxone.

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