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More than 1,000 people in B.C. died from drug overdose in last eight months

BC Coroners Service statistics indicate dramatic increases in fentanyl-linked deaths
More people have died across B.C. from drug overdoses in eight months than throughout all of last year. Photo Dan Toulgoet

The statistics continue to border on unimaginable: three and half deaths per day, 113 lives lost in August alone more than 1,000 fatal overdoses through eight months.

Those numbers were released Thursday morning by the BC Coroners Service, which noted that overdose drug deaths in B.C. had already exceeded last year’s totals by August’s end.

Preliminary data indicates there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August, a number that works out to more than three-and-a-half deaths per day. That stat represents a 79 per cent increase from August 2016.

The suspected number of illicit drug overdose deaths for the year to date is now 1,013, up from 547 at this time in 2016.

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths among all provincial health authorities at 38.9 deaths per 100,000 individuals. VCHA’s 63 per cent rise in overdose deaths is also the largest yearly increase in B.C.

The rates of fentanyl-related overdoses are skyrocketing at a seemingly unabated pace: more than 80 per cent of the 823 illicit drug deaths this year have been linked to the opioid, an increase of 151 per cent over last year.

The coroners service said fentanyl was most often combined with other drugs such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.

Other stats provided by the coroners service include:

  • almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years old
  • four out of five who died were male
  • nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, including more than half in private residences
  • no deaths occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.

“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 in a news release. “This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a co-ordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue. 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.”

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