Victoria recorded a total of 85 illicit drug overdose deaths between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, according to new figures from BC Coroners Service.
This figure ranked Victoria third overall in the province behind Vancouver with 361 deaths and Surrey with 195 deaths during the same period. In fact, Victoria has held this ranking since 2008.
Province-wide, 1380 people died of illicit drug overdoses between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, with figures for December not yet available. By way of context, 2008 saw 183 illicit drug overdose deaths. The three years with the highest recorded number of deaths are from 2016 to 2018.
Looking at the figures more closely, authorities recorded 120 suspected drug overdose deaths in November — an increase of 13 per cent compared to November 2017 (106) and an increase of nine per cent over the number of deaths occurring in October 2018 (110).
November was also the month when Dan Sealey, stepson of Lana Popham, provincial minister of agriculture, died of what his family said was an accidental drug overdose, at the age of 23.
The statistics from BC Coroners Service also confirm other key aspects of overdose deaths in British Columbia. Men accounted for a disproportionate share of 2018 deaths with 80 per cent, with many shading towards the older range of the age spectrum. Seventy-one per cent of overdose deaths were between the ages of 30 and 59.
Almost six out of 10 deaths (58 per cent) happened inside private residences. Other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels accounted for 25 per cent.
About 12 per cent of recorded deaths in 2018 happened in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, and parks among other outside locations.
Looking at the larger picture, illicit drugs now cause the largest number of unnatural deaths in British Columbia, having surpassed suicide in the middle of the decade.
Looking at the types of drugs, authorities discovered illicit fentanyl alone or in combination with other drugs in 85 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths — up from 82 per cent in 2017.