B.C. hits record number of illicit drug overdose deaths : coroner

More than 1,000 people have died as a result of the overdose crisis in 2017

The number of illicit overdose related deaths in B.C. has surpassed 1,000 as of the end of August.

Numbers released by the BC Coroners Service Tuesday show that 113 people died of overdose related deaths in August, up 79 per cent compared to the same month last year.

That makes for three-and-a-half deaths related to the overdose crisis each day this year.

That brings the total to 1,013, 83 more than the number who died last year. However, August is the second-least deadly month in 2017; only July, at 106 deaths, had fewer illicit drug related deaths.

The worsening overdose crisis led the BC Centre on Substance Use to release guidelines on injection opioid treatment earlier Tuesday morning.

Over four-fifths of the deaths in 2017 remain fentanyl related. In both 2016 and 2017, fentanyl-related deaths remain the most prevalent. Almost two-thirds of overdose deaths in B.C. over those two years had fentanyl detected, while less than have had cocaine and only one-third had heroin.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths throughout the province despite the numerous initiatives and harm-reduction measures in place,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your dealer or not.”

Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health remain the two health authorities with the highest number of deaths – 335 and 306, respectively.

Despite the high numbers in Fraser Health, Vancouver Coastal Health, Interior Health and Island Health all have higher rates of overdose deaths than Fraser Health.

The lower rates in Fraser Health can be explained by Surrey, as the biggest city in Fraser Health, having slightly less than half the deaths that Vancouver did, despite having four-fifths of Vancouver’s population.

Vancouver has been the epicentre of the growing crisis; more people died of illicit drug overdose related deaths in the city in the first eight months of 2017 than died province-wide in any year from 2007-2010.

The four cities with the most overdoses – Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna – make up approximately half the number of overdose-related deaths in 2017 so far.

Men continue to be the overwhelming majority of those who die of illicit opioid overdose related deaths. So far in 2017, 834 men have died, compared to just 179 women.

The crisis has struck people ages 30-39 the hardest. There have been 291 deaths in that age bracket, compared to 250 for ages 40-49 and 198 for ages 50-59.

Nine out of 10 deaths occur when people are inside, with over half of those taking place in private homes. There remain no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

Lapointe reiterated that most overdose fatalities have happened when people are alone and unable to get help.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

Black Press Media file photo
Tofino sets municipal tax rates

Tofino’s residential property values are rising while businesses are declining.

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu on May 8. (Black Press Media file photo)
Indigenous woman shot by police was holding a replica gun, says Ucluelet First Nation

Woman has been identified as a member of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation

Amphitrite Point lighthouse on Ucluelet’s Wild Pacific Trail during a massive winter storm. (Westerly file photo)
Ucluelet’s Official Community Plan public hearing goes ahead despite push back

A petition calling on Ucluelet council to postpone the May 13 virtual event fails to deter

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Brian Peach rescues ducklings from a storm drain in Smithers May 12. (Lauren L’Orsa video screen shot)
VIDEO: Smithers neighbours rescue ducklings from storm drain

Momma and babies made it safely back to the creek that runs behind Turner Way

Signage for ICBC, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, is shown in Victoria, B.C., on February 6, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
$150 refunds issued to eligible customers following ICBC’s switch to ‘enhanced care’

Savings amassed from the insurance policy change will lead to one-time rebates for close to 4 million customers

Most Read