Canada's Overdose Crisis Is "Dwarfing" COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way most people go about their daily lives. But for the already vulnerable population of substance users, the rules and restrictions of COVID-19 have heightened the risks they experience, according to drug policy experts and health advocates.

“The overdose crisis is actually dwarfing COVID-19,” said Scott Bernstein, director of policy at the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition. “We’re doing a good job managing COVID from a public health perspective (but) we’re doing a terrible job managing the overdose crisis from a public health perspective.”

The restrictions on resources and harm reduction services during the pandemic have placed drug users further at risk, experts say.

Jürgen Rehm, a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, said the physical distancing guidelines imposed to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as other measures, have indirectly increased the risk of opioid-related overdoses because of the disruptions to normal life.

“We have seen this lead to less supply, higher prices for illegal drugs, coupled with less possibilities to ea