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

Deb Jack was named Surrey’s Good Citizen of the Year in 2012. (File photo)
Environmentalists’ delegation takes aim at Bear Creek Park road project

‘Bear Creek Park is ours – a natural heritage,’ Deb Jack says

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

In a letter to Fraser Health president and CEO Dr. Victoria Lee dated May 11, Delta Mayor George Harvie confirmed the city’s interest in acquiring a head lease for the Harold and Veronica Savage Centre for Supportive Care, with the intention of subletting it to the recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta. (The Canadian Press photo)
Mayor confirms Delta’s interest in leasing Centre for Supportive Care

Harvie says city intends to sublet the facility to recently-formed Heron Hospice Society of Delta

The City of Surrey has moved a step closer to its single-use plastics and styrofoam ban, approving a communication and education plan for businesses. (File photo)
Surrey moves forward with single-use plastics ban, anticipated to take effect in November

‘Communication and education plan’ to prepare businesses approved

The north lane of White Rock’s Marine Drive will be closed to traffic as a result of a decision by council, aimed at providing more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Aaron Hinks photo)
White Rock council votes to make Marine Drive one-way route

North lane of waterfront drive to be closed to traffic, allowing for expanded restaurant patios

Surrey-raised rapper Merkules outside his old Green Timbers-area house. Its looming demolition triggers some memories for the musician. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
VIDEO: Rapper Merkules visits old Surrey home one final time before its demolition

‘It’s weird seeing the place gutted like this,’ he says of the Green Timbers-area rancher

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read