Alberta opioid deaths reach record levels

Jan 9, 2024

According to recent data released by the Alberta provincial government, 1,411 Albertans died from opioid poisonings in 2023 compared to 1,124 at the same time last year, which corresponds to a more than 25% increase over nine months. Earlier in 2023, the Alberta government faced criticism for the delay in providing the latest provincial data on drug poisonings.

“Every life lost from the deadly disease of addiction is a tragedy, and it reinforces our focus on making recovery possible for every Albertan,” said Hunter Baril, press secretary for Mental Health and Addiction Minister Dan Williams, in a released statement.

As health experts and community advocates have urged the Alberta government to increase access to harm reduction services, only two out of 11 recovery communities promised by the United Conservative Party of Alberta have opened, with others expected to open in 2024.

Furthermore, the Alberta government had previously promised to implement compassionate intervention legislation permitting a family member, doctor, or police officer to petition the court for a mandatory addiction treatment order for an individual deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. However, to date, this legislation has not been introduced.

Alberta’s rate of drug poisoning deaths peaked in 2023 at 41.1 people per 100,000, reaching a death rate of British Columbia, at 45.3 people per 100,000.

As of November 2023, Calgary has experienced one of its deadliest years on record, with 458 opioid-related deaths, with 478 deaths recorded in 2022 and 503 deaths in 2021.

In November, UCP members voted in favour of a resolution calling on the current government to end provincial funding for supervised consumption sites at its annual general meeting. The Alberta government had also promised publicly available data to track wait lists for individual recovery after addiction treatment. Accordingly, the My Recovery Plan app was originally promised in April 2022, but its full implementation has been delayed.