The poorest Canadians are almost 4 times more likely to die from opioids than the richest: study

A new study looking at opioid deaths in Canada over 17 years found that low-income Canadians are almost four times more likely to die from opioids than high-income Canadians.

Researchers from the University of Waterloo analyzed opioid-related deaths and hospitalizations in Canada between 2000 and 2017 through a socioeconomic lens.

They found that low-income Canadians were not only more likely to die from opioids, but the poorest Canadians also had five times as many emergency department visits due to opioids as the wealthiest Canadians.

The results, published in June in the journal Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention in Canada, highlight the stark gap between the risks rich and poor face when opioids are involved, the researchers say, and point to where policy changes can be made to help the most vulnerable.

“Opioid-related harms are at a crisis level in Canada,” said Wasem Alsabbagh, a professor of pharmacy at Waterloo and lead author of the study. in a press release. “Opioid-related hospitalizations in Canada have increased by more than 50% between 2007 and 2017. In Ontario, emergency department visits more than doubled. We explore trends between socioeconomic status and harms caused by opioids. opioids so that we can better understand how to address the opioid crisis.”

The researchers looked at death rates, hospitalizations and emergency department visits that were related to opioid use, and compared them to census data to get a picture of the median household income associated with patients’ neighborhoods.

Income and population estimates come from the 2006 and 2016 census.

In all, the researchers looked at more than 19,500 deaths, 82,000 hospitalizations and 71,000 emergency department visits, and compared them across five income levels.

Across all opioid-related risks, those in the lowest income group had the highest rate per million people in Canada, or per million in Ontario for emergency department visits.

This means that the lower a neighborhood’s income, the more opioid deaths, hospitalizations, and emergency department visits there were.

Experts say we can help mitigate these risks by targeting policies and support systems at low-income areas, such as safe injection sites.

In Timmins, Ontario, a secure injection site called the Safe Health Site Timmins will open its doors on Monday, and doctors said they weren’t surprised by the study’s results.

“People with less income have fewer opportunities for health and wellness,” said Dr. Liane Catton, a physician at the Porcupine Health Unit in Timmins, told CTV News Northern Ontario. “They tend to face greater inequalities in terms of health and medical care, and that includes social services, supports [for] Mental health and addictions”.

Social services and public programs need to be stepped up to fill the gap for those who don’t have the ability to access certain mental health or addiction care services, experts say.

“The goal of this site is to reach those people who are the hardest to reach, the most marginalized and vulnerable,” Dr. Louisa Marion-Bellemare, chief of addictions at Timmins and District Hospital, told CTV News Northern Ontario. “And those who aren’t really sure how to seek help or treatment for their addiction.”

The study noted some progress. Looking at the risk of death from an opioid overdose, the dramatic gap between rich and poor is narrowing a bit: The researchers found that the difference in death rate between the lowest and highest incomes decreased between 2000 and 2017.

However, the disparity regarding emergency department visits and hospitalization in that time period did not decrease.

And in 2017, Canadians in the lowest-income areas were still nearly 2.5 times more likely to die from opioid-related causes than those in high-income areas.

“For many, socioeconomic status is the result of past experiences — families, neighborhoods, education and other earlier life events — in addition to current access to material and social resources that help people cope with challenges,” Alsabbagh said. “We often see low socioeconomic status in concentrated geographic areas where there is poorer access to resources. In addition, psychosocial factors, such as feeling marginalized or enduring discrimination and social isolation, can play a role. Making the link between low socioeconomic status and the harm of opioids, we can design policies that more adequately meet the needs of our communities.”

Archived by Lydia Chubak

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