Overdose crisis in B.C. is getting worse, says government

Fentanyl seized by police.

A contaminated drug supply continues to pose risk to people using substances, the government announced on Thursday.

According to the latest data by the BC Coroners Service, British Columbia’s illicit drug overdose deaths, through the first eight months of 2017, have already surpassed the 2016 total for the entire year.

Preliminary data indicate there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August 2017, more than three-and-a-half deaths per day and a 79% 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.

Over 80% (823) of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date in 2017 had fentanyl detected, representing an increase of 151% over the same period in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.

“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 co-ordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue,” 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. 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.”

Quick Facts:

  • Current key trends in 2017 suspected illicit drug-overdose death cases:
    • Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths among all health authorities at 38.9 deaths per 100,000 individuals and also experienced the largest increase in rate from 2016 at a 63% increase;
    • almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years;
    • four out of five who died were male;
    • nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, including more than half in private residences; and
    • no deaths occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.

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