Addressing the Canadian Opioid Crisis: Insights from Calgary Wastewater

Calgary's wastewater analysis reveals increasing opioid use, highlighting the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address the Canadian opioid crisis.

Addressing the Canadian Opioid Crisis: What Calgary Wastewater Monitoring Tells Us

As cities across the globe grapple with the growing problem of drug abuse, strategies for addressing this issue are becoming increasingly innovative. In the Canadian city of Calgary, a novel and somewhat unconventional approach is leveraging the power of wastewater analysis to shed light on local drug use. Sifting through a city’s wastewater may be an unappealing task, but it delivers insightful data into public health issues, including the ongoing Calgary opioid crisis.

The Calgary Opioid Crisis: A Snapshot

Calgary, like many other Canadian communities, has been battling an escalating opioid crisis. Tracking drug use trends through traditional methods, such as surveys and hospital admission reports, often fails to provide an actual representation of the problem. This gap is where wastewater analysis comes in, providing granular and nearly real-time data on drug use. This approach gathers anonymous data at the population level, giving a snapshot of drug consumption in the community.

Wastewater Analysis: A Novel Gauge

The wastewater monitoring project has been operational since 2015 and seeks to measure 18 different substances. Crucially for Calgary’s authorities, the analysis includes metrics on opioids – a key contributor to the city’s drug problem. The examination’s findings provide insights beyond that which conventional data sources offer, helping paint a fuller picture of the Calgary opioid crisis. The results help authorities discern weekly and even daily consumption changes for different drugs.

Findings: Increase in Opioid Consumption

Unfortunately, the results are far from comforting. The data gathered from wastewater analysis reveals a steady increase in opioid use over the years. It also confirms that Calgary’s drug consumption rates are significantly more considerable than those in many other Canadian cities.

Key Points

  • The data from wastewater analysis confirms escalating drug use, including opioid consumption, in Calgary.
  • Calgary’s drug use rates, especially for opioids, are higher than in other Canadian cities.
  • Wastewater analysis offers a novel approach to monitor drug consumption, providing granular and near real-time data.

Tackling the Opioid Crisis: Policy Implications

The troubling trend uncovered by the wastewater analysis underscores the urgent need for holistic strategies to address the Canadian opioid crisis. Efforts to combat this issue must transcend traditional drug control policies to include strategies aimed at reducing demand, harm, and supply strategically.

Calgary’s response to the opioid crisis already includes harm reduction measures. These include the distribution of naloxone, a medication used to counteract the effects of opioid overdoses. But going forward, the data from wastewater analysis could be used to inform decisions about the distribution of harm reduction resources and the targeting of interventions.

Other Potential Uses

Indicators from wastewater analysis could also assist in gauging the effectiveness of drug policies. Furthermore, the value of this approach extends to monitoring variabilities related to homelessness and crime related to drug use. Simultaneously, its findings can be integral in the Canadian opioid abatement class action aimed at holding big pharma accountable.

In the long run, wastewater analysis could also be used to identify trends in other public health spheres. By uncovering otherwise hidden drug use patterns and problem areas, wastewater analysis can support the development of proactive interventions rather than just reactive solutions.


The escalating opioid crisis in Calgary represents a broader issue threatening the welfare of communities across Canada. It’s a multifaceted problem that demands all-inclusive strategies, informed by robust data, to effectively combat. While a snapshot from Calgary’s sewers might not be the most appealing read, it’s a call to arms against the opioid crisis.

Wastewater analysis presents a powerful tool in this fight, providing valuable insights into patterns of drug use that traditional methods fail to capture. Used alongside other data sources, it can inform comprehensive, effective, and proactive strategies to address the opioid crisis in Calgary and beyond. It’s a grim reminder that sometimes, we must look in unappetizing places for solutions to some of our most pressing problems.

As we continue to navigate this complex issue, we must consider all resources at our disposal – even if it means delving into wastewater. Armed with this approach, policy-makers, public health officials, and community leaders can be better informed towards mitigating the impact of the ongoing Canadian opioid crisis.


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