Overdose Deaths Hit Record High
Victoria, B.C. – More troubling numbers out of the BC Coroners Service today.
The latest statistics show that 128 people died because of illicit drug use in November in British Columbia, an average of more than four a day. The previous high was 82 in January, 2016.
The overdose deaths in November bring the yearly total to 755, an increase of 70 per cent over the number of deaths during the same period last year.
Fentanyl was detected in 374 cases, about 60 per cent of all overdose deaths. That is almost triple the number of fentanyl-detected deaths during the same period last year.
Regionally, most of the deaths this year occurred in the Fraser Health region (259), and the fewest in the Northern Health region (38 – 15 in the northern Interior, 15 in the Northeast and 8 in the Northwest).
The number of illicit drug overdose deaths per 100,000 shows Interior Health is highest at 18.6, followed by Fraser Health at 16. Northern Health was lowest at 14.8 (see below for more information).
Considering today’s startling numbers, the BC Coroners Service “continues to stress the importance of harm-reduction measures that need to be followed by anyone using any illicit drugs or accompanying anyone who is using.”
That includes: “Never using alone, having naloxone and medical help available when using, using an overdose-prevention site or supervised consumption site wherever possible, and knowing the signs of an overdose and calling 911 immediately.”
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe called today’s latest death tally “heartbreaking” while adding everyone on the front lines is “working diligently to save lives.”
She also shared her thoughts on why illicit drug overdose deaths continue to plague the province.
“Clearly, illicit drugs are becoming increasingly unpredictable and increasingly perilous. It may be that there has been more toxic fentanyl than usual circulating, or we may be facing the terrifying possibility of carfentanil being introduced broadly into the illicit drug stream,” said Lapointe.
“Or the arrival of another particularly lethal analog of fentanyl We’ll be working our hardest in partnership with the toxicologists to try to determine if those may be driving this spike.”