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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ronald Schinners, owner of The Cabbie in the #YYJ, opened his taxi service in the West Shore last month. (Dawn Gibson/News Staff)
‘One man show,’ The Cabbie in the #YYJ cultivates 45,000 followers on Instagram

New taxi company brings unusual spunk to the West Shore

Zahra Rayani-Kanji of Heart Pharmacy, Sidney Pharmacy manager James McCullough, and Naz Rayani, owner and founder of Heart Pharmacy, join sisters Becky Brigham and Judy Costanzo outside the business. Sidney Pharmacy has become the sixth Heart Pharmacy outlet in Greater Victoria after its purchase from Brigham and Costanzo. Their parents, Frances and Jim Brigham, first opened the business in 1959. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Sidney Pharmacy changes ownership, but retains family tradition

First opened by Frances and Jim Brigham in 1959, Sidney Pharmacy is now part of Heart Pharmacy

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has in the past warned of Öffnungsdiskusionorgien (translated as an orgy of discussions about openings), one of one of the 1,200 words added to the German lexicon as reported by the Leibniz Institute for the German Language. (Michael Kappeler/Pool via AP)
German lexicon grows by 1,200 words, many inspired by COVID-19 pandemic

Öffnungsdiskusionorgie (orgy of discussions about openings) among new entries

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: One man shot dead in ‘targeted incident’ on Sooke Road

Highway 14 reopens following multi-hour closure for investigation

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

The Port Alice pulp mill has been dormant since 2015. (North Island Gazette file photo)
Parts recycled, life returning to inlet as as old Port Alice mill decommissioned

Bankruptcy company oversees de-risking the site, water treatment and environmental monitoring

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Ex-B.C. teacher who was CFL kicker charged with assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

(Black Press Media files)
Medicine gardens help Victoria’s Indigenous kids in care stay culturally connected

Traditional plants brought to the homes of Indigenous kids amid the COVID-19 pandemic

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read