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Study hopes to shed light on opioid deaths in Alberta

Last Updated Jul 9, 2019 at 6:49 pm MDT

CALGARY (660 NEWS) – A new study from Alberta Health attempts to shatter preconceived notions that some may have around opioid-related deaths.

The review looks at 653 deaths across the province in 2017.

Most opioid fatalities don’t involve someone who is homeless.

Typically, it’s a man in his late thirties, using in his own home.

More than half of those who died worked in trades, transport or were equipment operators. The next most common occupational group was sales and services.

Previously being in provincial custody or medical diagnoses for psychiatric conditions or chronic pain were other common factors.

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The report defines opioid-related deaths as those caused by using codeine, morphine, oxycodone, fentanyl, carfentanil and heroin.

Some of the study’s highlights include:

– The vast majority of those who died, 77 per cent, were men.
– The average age was 38. Twenty people were 19 years or younger.
– 83 per cent of victims had a history of mental illness, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
– 66 per cent had been using alone at the time, most in their own homes.
– Fentanyl is the cause of 64 per cent of deaths. Carfentanil was used in 23 per cent.
– Caucasians made up the majority of those who died, 64 per cent, followed by Indigenous, at 18 per cent.
– 41 per cent were either in custody or under community supervision, including a conditional sentence or probation, within five years of their death.

Alberta Health said the aim of the study is to identify those most at risk and to highlight potential trends.

There’s often a stigma or negative views about those using opioids. Typically, users try to hide the problem and are reluctant to reach out seeking treatment or help.

In two-thirds of fatalities, the victims were likely to use along and die alone.

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