Canada’s chief public health officer says she is alarmed that the opioid crisis may be limiting life expectancy in the country, particularly in B.C.
In a report released Tuesday morning, Dr. Theresa Tam said for the first time in decades, life expectancy in British Columbia is decreasing due to the harms associated with opioid overdoses.
Tam says steadily increasing life expectancy over many years in Canada is expected to change because of illicit drug overdoses, with B.C. the hardest hit province.
The report says while data is not available at the national level, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is analyzing the impact of the opioid overdose crisis on overall life expectancy.
Government data shows nearly 4,000 Canadians died from apparent opioid overdoses last year, with 1,470 suspected deaths from illicit drugs in B.C.
The latest figures from the BC Coroners Service on suspected overdose deaths said there have been 972 cases through August of this year, just 72 deaths off the pace set in 2017 over the first eight months of the year.
The report focussed on alcohol, cannabis and opioid use among youth.
Tam says the drop in life expectancy is more prominent among men and Canadians living in poorer neighbourhoods.
The report is calling on further research on effective policies for preventing problematic opioid and cannabis use in youth.
Tam also says Canadian regulations coming soon will restrict marketing and advertising of opioids to health-care practitioners noting this “may help” reduce overprescribing of the drugs.
With files from the Canadian Press.