The latest numbers from the BC Coroners Service paints a tragic picture of the reality of the overdose crisis in our province.
So far this year, 1013 people have died across British Columbia from illicit drug overdoses.
According to the data released this morning, the number of deaths recorded this year as a result of illicit drug overdoses have already surpassed the 2016 total for the entire year.
In August there were 113 suspected overdose deaths, averaging out to 3.5 deaths a day and a 79 percent from August 2016. That’s up from 547 recorded at this time last year.
More than 80 percent of deaths to date this year had fentanyl detected, a 151 percent increase from last year. Fentanyl is often combined with other illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says it’s concerning to see the numbers continue to rise even though there are a number of harm-reduction measures in place.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths throughout the province despite the numerous initiatives and harm-reduction measures in place. This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a coordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue.”
She adds it’s important for those who are using to remember to never use alone and to always have someone nearby who can help.
“We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your dealer or not. Anyone using an illicit substance must be prepared for an adverse effect and must have someone else present who is willing and able to help.”
Nine out of ten deaths occurred indoors, with no deaths being reported at any supervised consumption site or any drug overdose prevention site.
Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug deaths among all health authorities, and also experienced the largest increased rate from 2016 at a 63 percent increase.
The new report shows that drug overdose is now the leading cause of unnatural death in BC, outstripping suicide, motor vehicle accidents and homicide.