A study by McMaster University sheds light on the impact of the opioid crisis on emergency departments and paramedic services. It is urging policymakers to address the crisis urgently. The lead researcher, Ryan Strum, a PhD candidate at McMaster University, revealed that between 2009 and 2019, the number of patients seeking emergency care due to opioid use more than doubled.
However, the most staggering increase in demand for services was observed among paramedics. With the number of patients transported to hospitals due to opioid use quadrupling over the same decade.
Strum emphasized the critical need to enhance support and allocate more resources to help individuals struggling with opioid-related issues. He noted that the Hamilton, Niagara, Haldimand, and Brant region experienced a substantial surge in cases, with paramedic transports increasing seven-fold and emergency department visits quadrupling. While the exact reasons behind this regional discrepancy remain unclear, it is possible that higher opioid usage, including potent substances like fentanyl and carfentanil, plays a role. Hamilton, for instance, had the third-highest opioid-related mortality rate in Ontario and the highest rate in southern Ontario in 2018, according to city data.
The McMaster study is a pioneering effort in Canada. As it not only examines opioid overdoses and deaths but also addresses withdrawal, dependence symptoms, and related mental health disorders. The research, published in the peer-reviewed journal Plos One on September 8, underscores that the majority of patients visiting emergency departments were discharged rather than admitted to hospitals. This suggests the potential for effective treatment and assistance through community programs, which, with increased funding, could alleviate the burden on emergency services.
Strum intends to publish data for more recent years in the coming months, with expectations of even more concerning results as the opioid crisis continues to worsen. He emphasizes the urgency for policymakers to take action promptly. He state, “We’ve known about the opioid crisis for almost two decades now. We’ve got a surplus of data. We’ve got a lot of experts in the field that are specializing in how to treat and manage these patients. I think we just really need to put all these resources together and come up with tangible solutions.” Read more: Opioid Crisis
The opioid crisis has been a pressing issue in Hamilton. It is declared a state of emergency earlier this year. Due to a rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths since 2018. The federal government recently announced $1.8 million in funding for local substance use projects at St. Joseph’s mental health campus. While this funding was pledged in the 2022 federal budget, it will be allocated to support harm reduction outreach. Also Peer support workers, safer supply programs, and patient treatment and care improvements in Hamilton. Minister Ya’ara Saks, responsible for mental health and addictions, emphasized the importance of these initiatives in addressing the ongoing crisis.