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Alberta drug overdoses increasing in shelters, addiction centres: health workers

Last Updated Mar 17, 2022 at 3:36 pm MDT

FILE - A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

Front-line healthcare workers say drug overdoses are spiking in Alberta.

They say fatal and non-fatal overdoses are increasing in homeless shelters, addiction treatment facilities and on city streets.

Studies suggest between 40 and 60 per cent of people exiting these settings return to drug use.

Physician Bonnie Larson, who works with vulnerable people, says the risk is great for individuals after attending inpatient treatment.

She says a toxic drug supply, changes to social supports, decreased tolerance and pressure to abstain from using substances also increase the likelihood of injury or death.

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Addictions specialist Dr. Monty Ghosh says most treatment agencies now offer opioid agonist therapy to reduce risk.

Data for Alberta shows overdose deaths hit record highs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is no indication the trend will shift.

Calgary outreach nurse Rachael Edwards says the crisis has also grown worse for individuals sleeping rough or in shelters.

Edwards says she has responded to more overdoses recently than in her entire 14-year career.