Lethbridge EMS drug responses at highest level since Feb

Lethbridge EMS responded to the second highest number of drug-related events during October 2022 than in any other October over the last 5 years, building on an upward trend that started in June.

Recently, the Government of Alberta updated the data on the Alberta substance use surveillance system, which it uses to communicate information about substance use in the province.

The new data includes EMS responses to opioid-related events up to the end of October 2022. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond June, and deaths haven’t been updated since July.

My last story on EMS responses in Lethbridge had EMS data up to September. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 29 opioid-related events, making October 2022 the second highest October of the last 5 years.

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Here’s how each October fared during the same period.


Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were down significantly from the previous October., but still higher than the other 3 years on record.

As well, during the first 12 months after the SCS closed down in August 2020, Lethbridge saw 358 opioid-related events that EMS responded to. This is the highest number of such events during the same period over the last 4 years.

Sep 2018–Aug 2019236
Sep 2019–Aug 2020269
Sep 2020–Aug 2021358
Sep 2021–Aug 2022308

In the 12 months since the SCS was closed due to the UCP government cancelling funding, Lethbridge EMS responded to an average of 29.8 drug responses a month, up from 22.3 during the same 12-month period the previous year. They also increased from 5.1 reponses per week, on average, to 6.9 per week.

During the second year since the SCS was shut down, we saw 308 EMS responses to drug events.

While that’s less than the 358 we saw between September 2020 and August 2021, it’s the second highest number seen during the same period over the last 4 years.

As well, October’s numbers were higher than every month this year, other than January and February, continuing the upward trend started in June.

While both January and February of this year were the highest on record, March was the 3rd highest, April was tied for the lowest April on record. May and June were each the second lowest on record, despite June increasing over May, and July was the lowest July on record, despite it having increased over June.

August and September, however, were back at being the second lowest on record, but were tied with another year (2018). October, as I have already pointed out, was the second highest on record, surpassed by only 3 more events last year.


With October’s numbers in, we can also look at how the final quarter of the year is shaping out. In the fourth quarter of 2022, so far Lethbridge EMS responded to a total of 29 drug-related events. That’s the second lowest number of any fourth quarter over the last 5 years, up to just the end of October.

If November and December see similar numbers, we could see close to 90 responses for the entire quarter, positioning it as second highest quarter of the year.

But as far as this year goes, this is the second highest quarter so far, up to the end of October, and if the numbers continue for the rest of the quarter, we could end up with the second highest fourth quarter on record.

One thing to keep in mind when reading these statistics is that just because EMS are responding to fewer drug events (compared to last year) doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer drug events.

For example, if more people are carrying naloxone on them or more groups outfitted with naloxone (such as SAGE Clan) are patrolling public areas where people are using drugs, they may attend to overdoses and see such success that EMS is never called.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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