Change of Course Urgently Needed Amid Record Drug Poisoning Deaths

Change of Course Urgently Needed Amid Record Drug Poisoning Deaths

EDMONTON — Heading into the long weekend, Albertans learned that our province is expected to surpass the annual record for toxic drug poisoning deaths in 2023. New data shows there were 1,692 drug poisoning fatalities between January and October of 2023. These updated numbers mean Alberta is expected to set a new record for fatalities last year.

In spite of this growing crisis and record-breaking death toll, the provincial government continues to push their so-called “recovery-oriented system of care,” while ignoring the wealth of evidence in support of harm reduction initiatives that are most effective at keeping people alive.

“The UCP government continues to stubbornly claim their approach is a success, while Albertans continue to die in record numbers from drug poisonings. This is a heartbreaking crisis, made all the more frustrating by this government’s refusal to address it,” said Chris Gallaway, executive director of Friends of Medicare. “These aren’t just numbers, they are our friends, family members and neighbours. Every drug poisoning death is a policy failure; Albertans mourn their losses with the knowledge that each of these deaths could have been avoided with proper access to community supports and services.”

The UCP government has been actively hostile to harm reduction services, even as Albertans are dying of drug poisoning in record numbers, and as the crisis continues to put added pressure on our entire public health care system — a system currently struggling to meet the health needs of Albertans. All of this could have been avoided if the government had listened to those on the ground, and changed their ideologically unyielding approach.

“Six people die by drug poisoning in Alberta every single day. Yet the premier and the minister are still touting their failed approach, and pitting the false dichotomy of harm reduction against treatment when it’s clear we need both. There is no chance of recovery if you are dead,” said Gallaway. “To see this government remain staunch in their refusal to follow the evidence, even while so many people in our communities are suffering, just adds insult to injury. This is a public health crisis, and we must start treating it as one.”

Friends of Medicare continues to encourage Albertans to support our calls for urgent action to save lives in the drug poisoning crisis.


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