New data highlighting the number of people using illicit drugs in the region

A new report from public health to regional councillors is finding some sobering numbers on illicit drug use across the region.

According to the region’s Needle Syringe Program, there are an estimated 9,219 user of illegal drugs across the region, but that number is believed to be an underestimate. Most of the users were found to be men aged 25-44 years old, with methamphetamine and fentanyl being the most commonly used.

In 2023, there were 68 suspected overdose deaths, a decline from the 88 reported in 2022. Of all confirmed opioid deaths, 55 per cent happened in private, indoor locations. There were 1,449 suspected opioid toxicity-related paramedic calls in the region in 2023, with 810 in Kitchener and 377 in Cambridge.

A community drug alert from Waterloo Region Integrated Drugs Strategy (WRIDS) was extended on Monday after 85 suspected overdoses and six suspected deaths were reported between May 23 and June 2. They warn of a new drug mixture hitting the streets as a combination of fentanyl, benzodiazepines, and xylazine with a red, reddish-orange, reddish-pink, green and grey colour.

As of June 3, the Region’s overdose/drug poisoning dashboard shows there have been 38 suspected deaths so far this year. That is a rise from the 28 reported on May 6.

The Chief Medical Officer of Health of Ontario noted in his annual 2023 report that communities should be taking an “all-of-society, health first approach” to reduce harm by drugs. Public health said in the report they will continue to collect data and work with community partners to support a multi-pillar and sector approach.

The full report can be found here.

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