A new study shows opioid overdoses are on the rise in Alberta and many are left wondering how much longer the healthcare system will be able to handle the situation.

Officials say that every day, 11 Albertans are sent to the hospital to be treated for an overdose and those hospital stays cost a lot of money.

“Ambulances cost money, emergency room visits cost money and patients cost money, but really, we’re here to provide health services and what’s important right now isn’t the financial cost, it’s the human cost,” said Dr. Nick Etches with the AHS.

The report, by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, says that emergency room visits for overdoses from drugs such as heroin and fentanyl have doubled.

Since 2016, 741 Albertans have died from opioid overdoses.

Brandy Payne, Alberta’s associate Health Minister, says she isn’t surprised by the statistics.

“In many ways the report confirms information we already knew around Alberta and in Calgary in particular. The report also shows us that some of the reporting data that we’ve had coming in from around Alberta is some of the most robust data that’s coming in from around the country.”

The province is working closely with the federal government on the growing crisis and they are still trying to get the green light for safe consumption sites.

“Four applications in Edmonton, one in Calgary, one in Lethbridge; so we’re continuing to work with the federal government as well as the communities doing needs assessments for other jurisdictions across the province to see what the need is there as well as doing what we can to support the opening of those sites,” Payne said.

The report also says that drug use for those between the ages of 15 and 24 is the highest and fastest growing rate of ER visits.

Amy Graves, a community advocate in Edmonton, lost her 21-year-old brother to an overdose. She says he had no known addictions.

Graves says that education is the key to solving the problem and the province needs to do more to support users and teach youth about the dangers of opioids.

“I think it’s more important than ever that we not only give them information on what drugs they may be exposed to or encounter but also, if they choose to use, how to do it safer.”

So far, the provincial budget has dedicated $44M to the opioid crisis, with $30M of that going towards a special Opioid Emergency Response Commission made up of doctors and family members of victims.

The group makes recommendations on how to best use the government funding.

(With files from Jaclyn Brown)