Written with files from Kash Knight/Swift Current Online
The Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service (SCS) has released statistics on last year’s overdose deaths in the province.
In Swift Current, two men died within three days of each other at the end of December, making up half of the drug-related deaths for the city. Other Saskatchewan communities with confirmed drug toxicity deaths include Regina (85), Saskatoon (45), Lloydminster (9), Moose Jaw (5), and Prince Albert (4).
Chief Coroner for Saskatchewan, Clive Weighill, said the province documented 204 confirmed, and 217 suspected drug toxicity deaths in 2022. Of those confirmed, 14 were ruled as suicides, and 190 were deemed accidents.
“If you go back to 2016, we had 109 confirmed deaths,” he said. “That's where we started to see the jump—it went from 119 in 2017 to 172 in 2018. And then it's just escalated since there.”
Weighill explained that the reason for the rise in numbers is difficult to determine, as a range of factors are involved.
“It could be somebody that at one time was getting painkillers, opioids from their doctor, and doctors are kind of clamping down on that now, so they're turning to the illicit market,” he said. “It could be somebody just using some cocaine, not knowing it's laced with fentanyl. It could be somebody that likes fentanyl because it apparently gives a very good high. It could be somebody just experimenting. There isn't any one common cohort to this.”
Not only are there a number of circumstances that lead to the deaths, but there is also a wide variety of substances.
While the most commonly found toxin is fentanyl, Weighill added that it is almost always accompanied by something else—including methamphetamine, alcohol, and cocaine, among others.
“The average age [of men] that are perishing is around that 35-to-45-year age group,” he added. “So these are people that held good jobs before and then got involved with drugs and unfortunately overdosed.
“And I think that's one of the problems with public education here. I don't think the public really understands; there's a common feeling that it's young people, homeless people, that are involved in this. But that's far from the truth.”