Saskatchewan reaches record in 2022 overdose deaths

Saskatchewan reaches record in 2022 overdose deaths

There have been 217 suspected overdose deaths in Saskatchewan, according to the most recent update from the chief coroner.

Saskatchewan Chief Coroner Clive Weighill

Saskatchewan Chief Coroner Clive Weighill speaks on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023 in Regina. PHOTO BY TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader-Post

Suspected overdose deaths are cases where there is evidence pointing to overdose as the cause of death, but an autopsy or toxicology report has not yet been completed to confirm it. Nine cases from last year are still awaiting confirmation through a coroner’s inquest.

The chief coroner described the overdose epidemic as complex and said that people lost to drug overdoses come from all walks of life, age groups, and circumstances. The year-over-year increase in overdose deaths has narrowed since 2021, but there were still 11 more overdose deaths this year than last.

Most overdose deaths in the past two years have involved fentanyl and its derivatives, an opioid that has been increasing in the illicit drug supply since 2015. Fentanyl was present in two-thirds of overdose deaths in 2021 and over half of confirmed cases in 2022.

The majority of overdose deaths occurred in the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, with Regina having almost double the number of Saskatoon. Overdoses also occurred in 47 other communities in the province, mostly in rural areas.

The prolonged crisis of drug-related deaths is putting strain on the province, including the coroner’s office, which has seen a 400% increase in autopsies each year.

The nature of these cases is also taking a toll on the mental health of coroners, who are dealing with death every day. Advocates are calling for a more involved provincial overdose strategy and for action to address underlying issues such as poverty, homelessness, mental health, and stigma.

Article information and photos obtained by Regina Leader-Post.

Saskatchewan overdoses

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