BC Coroners Service releases expanded findings into overdose deaths

A new report released by the BC Coroners Service provides additional details on British Columbians who have died in the illicit drug overdose crisis.

The 34-page report, Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC: Findings of Coroners’ Investigations, looked deeper into 872 completed illicit drug overdose death investigations in 2016 and 2017 and found:

* More than half of the decedents had a reported a clinical mental health diagnosis or showed evidence of a mental health disorder;

* About four in every five decedents had contact with health services in the year preceding their death;

* More than two-thirds used drugs alone;

* 45% of decedents had reported pain-related issues;

* 14% of decedents lived in social or single room occupancy housing and 9% were homeless;

* About one in every four deaths involved people, primarily males, working in trades or transport;

* 65% of decedents were never married and 18% were previously separated or divorced; and,

* 44% of decedents were employed and 51% unemployed.

The report also confirmed findings previously shared by the coroners service, including:

* Four in every five decedents were male (81%, or 707 of the 872 deaths);

* About two-thirds of decedents lived in private residences; and,

* Fentanyl was detected in just over three in every four deaths.

“Illicit drugs continue to be the source of more than three deaths per day in B.C.,” said Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner. “Our expanded analysis confirms that more than two-thirds of these illicit drug deaths in 2016 and 2017 involve people using alone and indoors. We know this leads to a higher risk for death with a toxic drug supply. We continue to urge those using substances to plan to take them in the company of someone who can provide help: administering naloxone and calling 911 for assistance.”

The report includes data and information on population, demographics, marital status, housing, employment status and industry of work, medical history (including mental health and pain-related issues), pattern of illicit drug use, overdose location, mode of consumption, drugs detected and people using alone.

The BC Coroners Service also released its updated data on illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia to the end of August 2018, with 98 suspected drug overdose deaths in August. This represents a 27% decrease from the previous month (134 suspected overdose deaths were reported in July 2018). It also marks a 20% decrease compared to August 2017.