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Preliminary stats say Sask. had record number of drug overdose deaths in 2022

Saskatchewan had more than 420 confirmed or suspected fatal overdoses in 2022. (Dan Zakreski/CBC - image credit)
Saskatchewan had more than 420 confirmed or suspected fatal overdoses in 2022. (Dan Zakreski/CBC - image credit)

Preliminary numbers from the provincial coroners service show a record number of people are believed to have died from drug overdoses in Saskatchewan last year.

The latest figures say there were 204 confirmed and 217 suspected drug deaths in the province in 2022.

That's a total of 421 deaths compared to 401 in 2021, which itself was a record.

Chief Coroner Clive Weighill said "it's a tough situation," but that he hopes that there may be some slight cause for optimism. The numbers are still climbing year to year, but not as dramatically.

"Rather than seeing 100 or 150 cases increase every year, we're only up about 15 cases over the past year," he said Thursday.

"So that shows to me that possibly we're maybe going to hit a plateau with drug overdoses here in Saskatchewan … so hopefully that's a positive indicator for us."

The report from the coroners service offers a detailed breakdown of drug overdose deaths, including where they happened and what drugs were involved.

For the third year running, Regina led the province with 85 confirmed drug overdose deaths — almost double the 45 in Saskatoon, the next highest. The two largest cities are followed by Lloydminster (nine), Moose Jaw (five), and then Prince Albert and Swift Current with four each.

Fentanyl is the drug that killed the most people, having been identified in 127 cases.

Weighill said the overdoses are stressing the coroners service financially and emotionally.

The service is looking at performing 400 autopsies, which has necessitated hiring two extra staff, and there are costs associated with getting a person's body from where they died to where the autopsy will be done.

"Our coroners, every call they go on is a death," he said.

"They can go to these and see a young life, an older life, has been taken by a drug overdose, probably needlessly and possibly could have been prevented."