The drug toxicity crisis is a growing public health issue among adolescents and young adults. Opioid-related emergency department (ED) visits and deaths increased during the COVID-19 pandemic (2020/2021) among adolescents and young adults in Ontario, and substance-related ED visits have become increasingly emergent or life-threatening in this demographic.
Despite this increase in opioid-related harms, there is evidence that treatment rates for opioid use disorder (OUD) are decreasing among adolescents and young adults in Ontario. This report from the ODPRN, Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario/Ontario Forensic Pathology Service (OCC/OFPS) aims to further investigate this trend in Ontario, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic. It specifically examines (i) trends in opioid toxicity and treatment for OUD (ii) demographic characteristics and circumstances surrounding opioid toxicity deaths; and (iii) interactions with the healthcare system prior to opioid toxicity death among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24 compared to individuals aged 25 to 44 years old.
Policymakers, school boards, public health units, healthcare providers and community-level organizations can use this information to inform opioid toxicity prevention and harm reduction strategies for adolescents and young adults.