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Illicit drug overdose deaths down in April compared to March across B.C.

Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo.
Fentanyl pills are shown in an undated police handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE/HO - Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams

The number of illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. declined in April from a month earlier.

The B.C. Coroners Service released its monthly drug death numbers on Thursday. There were 124 suspected drug overdose deaths in April, down from 160 deaths in March.

LISTEN: Brainstorming solutions to the overdose crisis


“We are cautiously optimistic to see that after a bad month in March that the number is down but we are still seeing an average of four deaths per day in British Columbia and that is four deaths too many,” said Coroners Service spokesperson Andy Watson. “Looking at the first four months, we are down in 2018 compared to where we were in 2017.”
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READ MORE: B.C. marks 2017 as deadliest O.D. death year in provincial history

There were 511 deaths in the first four months of 2018, compared with 553 deaths in the first four months of 2017. Fentanyl was detected in 83 per cent of the illicit drug deaths so far in 2018.

A majority of the deaths in April — 61 per cent — took place in private residences. No one died of an illicit drug overdose in April at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site.

WATCH HERE: Who is dying from illicit drug overdoses in B.C.?

Who is dying from illicit drug overdoses in B.C.?
Who is dying from illicit drug overdoses in B.C.?

“The data indicates that people are dying using alone, and we need to continue to share that message to not use alone, but to use in the company of someone who can use naloxone and call 911,” Watson said. “The drug supply right now is not safe, it’s toxic.”

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READ MORE: March represents second-deadliest month for illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. history

Vancouver continues to top the list as the municipality with the most illicit drug deaths with 135 in the first four months of 2018. Surrey is next with 80, then Victoria with 39, while Kamloops and Prince George both have had 17 illicit overdose deaths during the first four months of this year.

“The issue for us is to do harm reduction. This is not necessarily a legal battle, but a health battle,” said Sgt. Jason Robillard of the Vancouver Police Department. “We are here to work with the community, to work with our partners, to bring these deaths down.”

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson went to twitter to respond to the overdose death numbers. In a series of tweets, Robertson described the deaths as ‘preventable’ and said that addictions should be treated as a health issue rather than a criminal one.

“I am thankful to see some progress being made; however, lives are on the line and we need to push harder than ever for bold action that will put a stop to these senseless deaths,” tweeted Robertson. “The City of Vancouver continues to call on the federal & provincial governments to support innovative & life-saving measures, including a low-barrier opioid distribution pilot project, led by Dr. Mark Tyndall at BC Centre for Disease Control.”

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