The issue

For over a decade, Canadians have been dying at an increasing rate from opioid overdoses. Between January 2016 and December 2021, nearly 30,000 Canadians died from an opioid overdose. Ontario is not immune to this tragedy. Within the first nine months of 2021, 2167 people died from an opioid-related overdose in the province - an average of 8 people per day. A contaminated and toxic illicit drug supply is a major driver of the opioid overdose crisis — with fentanyl contributing to 85.9% of deaths in 2020.

Evidence shows that the number of overdose deaths has risen dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a myriad of factors. Rates are disproportionately high in communities with greater ethno-cultural diversity. RNAO continues to advocate for a harm reduction approach that respects basic human dignity and the rights of people who use substances.

What the evidence says


Take action

Opioid overdose policy documents


Overdoses from toxic drug supply: A public health crisis

An RNAO political action fact sheet outlining an escalating crisis and what can be done about it. 


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Ontario’s escalating overdose crisis: Political action bulletin 

RNAO's political action bulletin outlining RNAO recommendations to the provincial government outlining urgent evidence -based action with a harm reduction approach to stop preventable deaths. 


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Accidental opioid overdoses: a public health crisis

Learn about the history of the opioid overdose crisis, the changing political landscape, and RNAO’s advocacy and four key recommendations. All levels of government have a critical role in responding with the urgency warranted by this public health crisis to provide access to essential health and social services and save lives.