Canada’s Opioid Crisis: A 2021 Update

The last year has been an incredible challenge for everyone – all across the globe. People have been dealing with life-changing events in the wake of the pandemic. Social distancing and isolation from friends and family are tough for people in perfect health, let alone those who are battling with substance misuse and those in recovery. While the numbers that have arisen from the past year may appear bleak, there are plenty of reasons to remain positive about the future of the Opioid Crisis in Canada.

Pacifica Treatment Centre prioritizes treatment, education, and support that strengthens individuals, families, and their communities. Our team of compassionate professionals has dedicated their lives to the support and betterment of all community members that are looking and willing to be helped. Pacifica is dedicated to using our platform to raise awareness about the Opioid Crisis in Canada and believes that information is the most powerful tool towards making positive progress and real, lasting change.

At A Glance, The Numbers Tell Us That:

  • In 2021, the opioid crisis continues to grow in the wake of the pandemic
  • 94% of opioid overdose deaths were accidental
  • Young Canadians, aged 15 to 24, are the fastest-growing population requiring hospitalization from opioid overdoses


How The Pandemic Influenced Substance Misuse

Managing substance misuse and maintaining a healthy support network is something that requires dedication and diligent effort. Unfortunately, the public health actions that were implemented to protect the general public put additional strain and added difficulty on people in the community with substance use disorders.

  • Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 6,946 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred (April 2020 to March 2021), representing an 88% increase from the same time period prior to the pandemic (April 2019 to March 2020 – 3,691 deaths).


Social isolation, the shutting down or limited social services, added stress and anxiety caused by a bleak outlook on the future, widespread job loss, and an overall lack of positive opportunities. It was the perfect storm that allowed for substance misuse to rise dramatically.

A Virtual Community at Your Finger Tips!

One thing this pandemic has taught us was how the internet allows us to remain more connected than ever. Our family, friends, and loved ones are now only a click away. This makes it so much easier for us to reach out to our circle of friends and get support when we need it most. So long as the Opioid Crisis continues, there will always be people, teams, organizations, and communities who are dedicated to helping those in need.

Important Trends Developing Within the Opioid Crisis

Recent statistics provided by the Government of Canada shed light on a range of areas of concern. Unfortunately, the number of deaths due to opioid overdose is rising year over year. Also, out of the information that has been collected, we have a clear picture of the demographics that are being affected by this crisis the most.

Below are a collection of statistics that relate to the points listed above:

  • 22,828 apparent opioid toxicity deaths between January 2016 and March 2021
    • 1,772 apparent opioid toxicity deaths occurred between January and March 2021 (approximately 20 deaths per day), representing a 65% increase compared to January to March 2020 (1,073 deaths).
  • Most apparent opioid toxicity deaths among males and individuals aged 20 to 49 years
    • Males accounted for the majority of accidental apparent opioid toxicity deaths (75%) from January to March 2021; for both males and females, the majority of deaths were among individuals aged 20 to 49 years.
  • Individuals between 30 and 39 years accounted for a higher proportion of accidental opioid toxicity deaths where fentanyl (33%) was involved from January to March 2021.

Stats obtained from health Infobase Canada


Illegal Opioids – How Are They Adding to the Opioid Crisis?

Fentanyl is the leading cause of concern as it continues to appear in an increasing number of overdose cases. The problem is that you can’t see, taste, or smell Fentanyl, making it impossible to detect for the average person. It is so incredibly potent that an amount equal to a few grains of salt is enough to result in an overdose.

This means that illicit substances acquired from street sources are incredibly dangerous as these substances can accidentally come in contact with residual fentanyl – and that is enough to result in an overdose. Unfortunately, it appears as though there is an upward trend in the number of fentanyl-induced overdoses.

That being said, there is a wide array of resources available to help people learn more. Resources include how to use Naloxone for overdose emergencies and prevention, and how to respond when someone overdoses, as well as supervised consumption sites.

Positive Changes Amidst the Opioid Crisis:

While any step that is made towards helping the substance misuse community, Pacifica and its allies are always looking to set the bar higher, advocating for more resources, better support systems, and more attention given to those in need of assistance. The best way to see systemic change is to make the opioid crisis a topic that political figures in Canada must address.

Political Spotlight

Highly influential political figures in the Canadian government have acknowledged the opioid crisis and given it the platform that it rightly deserves, becoming one of the main topics that political candidates run with. Below is a list of some of the changes implemented by the Government of Canada, to date:

  • Making naloxone kits available for free and without a prescription in most provinces and territories
  • Protecting people who call for help when an overdose occurs from minor drug possession charges through the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act
  • Increasing access to treatment services in provinces and territories
  • Distributing wallet cards across Canada to raise awareness about the signs of an overdose and what to do during an overdose
  • Raising awareness about stigma to reduce barriers to treatment and health and social services for people who use drugs
  • Approving supervised consumption sites and allowing provinces and territories to quickly set up overdose prevention sites to reduce harms associated with drug use and to prevent death


Global Awareness

While there can never be enough exposure on this issue, the global recognition surrounding the harmful effects of opioids and the severity of the opioid crisis continues to grow each and every year. The stigma surrounding substance misuse and mental health concerns is gradually being lifted and entering mainstream conversation on a more regular basis.

In-Residence and Continuing Care at Pacifica Treatment Centre

Pacifica provides in-residence treatment and community-based services for individuals experiencing problematic substance use, in conjunction with mental health concerns and trauma.

Pacifica Treatment Centre has 35 beds, 27 are public (funded by Vancouver Coastal Health) and 8 are private pay. Pacifica offers a continuum of programs and services that enhance sustainable recovery, quality of life, and wellbeing for clients.

To learn more about the in-residence programs at Pacifica, click here for more information!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *