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Lethbridge sees record number of overdose deaths in 2023


New data released by the province shows that 124 people died in Lethbridge in 2023 due to a drug overdose, the most ever recorded.

Across Alberta, 2,051 people died as a result of drug overdoses in 2023, which also set an all time high.

On average, that means six people a day died from an overdose in Alberta last year.

The vast majority of those deaths came from non-pharmaceutical opioids like fentanyl and heroin.

"It has unfortunately increased everywhere. It's across the country," said Earl Thiessen, executive director of Oxford House.

Lethbridge didn't have the most overdose deaths, but it did have the highest death rate per capita.

Last year, the city saw 116 deaths per 100,000 people.

That's nearly double second place Edmonton, which had 66.5 deaths per capita.

"Lethbridge, in particular, has a different population from some cities. There's a lot of people that have residential school trauma, secondary trauma, intergenerational trauma that they're trying to alleviate by using substances," said Amber Jensen with Moms Stop the Harm.

The opioid crisis hits close to home for many people in Lethbridge.

Jensen says she lost two foster children to fentanyl overdoses.

She wants to see a change in government policy so that no one else has to go through what she did.     

"We need more agencies giving out safe supplies of drug use materials," she said.

"People need to have access to safe injection supplies. People need a safe space to use. Right now, people are dying on the streets because they have no where that is safe to use."

Overall, nearly 70 per cent of the victims last year were men, the largest portion being men in their 30s. 

Fifty-five of the deaths were people under the age of 19, with eight being younger than 14.

The province calls the number of overdose deaths concerning.

"With a continued focus in building the Alberta recovery model, more people will access life-saving services to help them overcome the deadly disease of addiction," said a statement from the office of the minister of mental health and addiction.

Between January and February of this year, 10 people died from an overdose in Lethbridge.

That's down from 23 deaths in the same time period last year. Top Stories

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