Map of Simcoe Muskoka

Alcohol & Drugs

Characteristics of Individuals Experiencing an Opioid Overdose

Understanding the demographic and socioeconomic circumstances of those experiencing an opioid overdose can help to inform local interventions and programs to support individuals at risk of overdose within Simcoe Muskoka. Further, identifying where individuals have made contact with certain parts of the system, such as health care, justice and social assistance, can help community organizations focus efforts and opportunities to where individuals at risk can receive support.

On July 15, 2021, Statistics Canada released an article and an accompanying infographic summarizing the results of a study which aimed to identify the characteristics of individuals living in North Simcoe and Muskoka who experienced a fatal or non-fatal opioid overdose from January 2018 to December 2019. This page provides a brief summary of this article and additional analysis conducted by Statistics Canada.

This work was done in partnership with the Simcoe Muskoka Opioid Strategy (SMOS).

This study covers the same geographic area as the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN); however, it does not include the full catchment area of the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, as South Simcoe (Adjala-Tosorontio, New Tecumseth and Bradford West Gwillimbury) residents were not included.

Although the overdoses in this study occurred before the COVID-19 pandemic, these data provide a profile of those who experienced an overdose, as well as a baseline for examining harms related to opioid use before the COVID-19 pandemic. This may be important since recent work by the Public Health Agency of Canada indicates that opioid deaths have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall Summary

Over the two-year period from 2018 to 2019, there were 1,257 individuals in the North Simcoe and Muskoka area that experienced a documented opioid overdose, with 161 (13%) resulting in death. Nearly one in five (19%) experienced more than one overdose, for a total of 1,746 opioid overdoses over this period.

More males (60%) than females (40%) experienced an overdose and more than half (53%) of those who overdosed were between the ages of 25 and 44 years. More than twice as many males died of an overdose when compared with females over these two years.

Nearly all (98%) who experienced a fatal or non-fatal overdose during this period had contact with either the health care, justice or social assistance systems in the two-years prior to their overdose.

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Income and Employment

Nearly two-thirds (62%) were unemployed in the year prior to their overdose, and more than one-third (38%) were not employed in the five previous years. Of those who were employed, one-third (34%) of males were working in construction and more than one-third (38%) of females were working in either food services or retail prior to their overdose.

More than half (52%) received some form of social assistance in the year prior to their overdose and nearly one-third (31%) had been receiving social assistance for the five previous years.

Of the 59% of individuals who had filed taxes in the year prior to their overdose, approximately half (49%) were living in low income based on their after-tax family income using the low-income measure (LIM-AT). Less than one-third (29%) of individuals were married (or common law) in the year prior to their overdose and more than one-third (38%) were single and not part of a family (as defined by Statistics Canada).

Contacts with Health Services

One in five (19%) were hospitalized in the year prior to their overdose. Over two-thirds (69%) visited an emergency department at least once and more than one-third (36%) had three or more emergency visits in the year prior to their overdose. Most of these emergency visits were for non-opioid related reasons, including injuries, non-opioid poisonings, mental health and non-opioid substance use.

Contacts with the Justice System

Almost half of those who experienced an overdose (46%) were in contact with the justice system in the two years prior to their overdose, either directly with police (44%) or through formal contact with the criminal court system (31%). Contact with the justice system was highest among young adults aged 25 to 34 (60%). Nearly three-quarters (70%) of those with a police interaction were male, and more than half (54%) of those with a police interaction had three or more interactions over the two years prior to their overdose.

Data about individuals who experience opioid overdose leading to an ED visit, hospitalization or death are routinely monitored and updated by the health unit as new data become available. See the linked pages below for more information:

Page last updated February 9, 2022