Lethbridge EMS drug responses set a new February record

Lethbridge EMS responded to the highest number of drug-related events during February 2023 than in any other February over the last 6 years, continuing a 8-month trend of rising numbers.

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 February 2023. Hospitalization and SCS usage data haven’t been updated beyond September, and deaths haven’t been updated since November.

My last story on EMS responses in Lethbridge had EMS data up to January. Since then, Lethbridge EMS responded to an additional 47 opioid-related events, making February 2023 the highest February of the last 6 years.

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


Here it is in graph form:

Last month’s numbers were up significantly from the previous February, which previously held the record for the most EMS drug responses in a single February.

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.

And while we’re still only 6 months into the third year since the Alberta government effectively shut down the SCS, the monthly and weekly averages of EMS drug responses is on the rise.


As well, February’s numbers were the highest the city has seen since August 2021.

As you can see, the number of drug responses that the Lethbridge EMS were responding to began to decline in the latter half of 2021, but then the trend reversed last summer, with increases nearly every month since June of last year.

Here’s a look at all the months on record.


One thing to keep in mind when reading these statistics is that just because EMS are responding to these drug events doesn’t necessarily mean these were the only 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.

So, the actual number of drug events occuring in the city last month could have been higher.

Support independent journalism

By Kim Siever

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

Comment on this story

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: