January 27, 2016 3:07 pm
Updated: January 27, 2016 5:44 pm

BC Coroners: drug-related youth deaths a result of a delay in seeking help

A newly released report by the BC Coroners Service details how youth drug overdose deaths can be prevented.

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BC youth are dying from overdoses because the people around them could not recognize the signs of an overdose and seek medical help, says a new report by the BC Coroners Service Child Death Review Panel released today.

During the five-year period reviewed (2009-2013), they found 26 youth and 156 young adults died by an overdose. These youth were between the ages of 15 and 23. Fortunately, no youth under the age of 13 died of an overdose during this time period.

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Types of Drugs

The report also found that youth were especially vulnerable when they mixed drugs, or when they mixed drugs and alcohol. Opioids were especially dangerous when combined.

A 2013 BC Adolescent Health Survey found that for youth between grades 7 and 12, 45 per cent had tried alcohol and 26 per cent had tried marijuana.

“Of other drugs ever tried, prescription pills without physician consent (11%) were reported to be the most used followed by hallucinogens (6%) and mushrooms (5%). Two per cent of the youth reported ever trying amphetamines and one per cent reported ever trying heroin.”

Risk Factors

There were a number of risk factors that increased the likelihood of an overdose:

  • The young people who died were primarily young men between 19 and 23 years old.
  • One third of the young adults and almost one third of the youth had a mental health diagnosis at the time of their death.
  • The majority of the youth (80%) and young adults (90%) were noted to have a history of drug and alcohol use.
  • 20 per cent of the youth and 19 per cent of the young adults had attended rehab or detox at least once before their death.
  • Approximately one third of the youth were reported to have been hospitalized on a previous occasion for an overdose.
  • At the time of their overdose, most of the youth (77%) and one third of the young adults (37%) were reported to be in the company of other people.
  • Research indicates that youth involved or living on the street are more likely to use more drugs more often than youth who are housed.
  • The majority of deaths (91%) were in urban centers (e.g. Greater Vancouver, Victoria or Prince George) compared to rural areas (9%).

Three Recommendations

The report made three recommendations to prevent future overdose deaths among youth:

  • To reduce barriers to seeking immediate medical assistance when an overdose has occurred.
  • To raise awareness of the importance of seeking immediate medical attention.
  • To support inter-agency learning around overdose deaths.

© 2016 Shaw Media

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