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‘Human tragedy’: 523 opioid overdose deaths reported in Toronto last year, TPH says

Toronto’s top doctor is calling the opioid overdose crisis a drug toxicity epidemic and is pushing for an empathetic health response as officials release preliminary annual data on the city’s overdose deaths.

Toronto Public Health says the data released Wednesday shows 523 opioid toxicity deaths were reported last year, up slightly over the year before but down from 2021’s peak of 591.

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In a statement, the city’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen de Villa called the continued loss of life “devastating,” adding the issue is a “human tragedy that demands we respond with empathy, care and compassion.”

Preliminary details for 426 of the deaths ruled accidental show about half of those people lived in a private dwelling and over a third were in their homes when they died.

Advocates have criticized British Columbia’s recent move to recriminalize public drug possession, in part because they say it will push people to increasingly use drugs in private spaces out of view from those who could help in the event of an overdose.

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Toronto Public Health’s drug decriminalization request, part of a suite of measures it has pushed to help grapple with the overdose crisis, was turned down by Ottawa earlier this month.

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