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BC Coroners Service releases expanded findings of overdose deaths

Coroners report brings grim new insights into B.C. overdose crisis
WATCH: Coroners report brings grim new insights into B.C. overdose crisis

A new report about fatal drug overdoses in British Columbia is overflowing with numbers, however, one statistic stands out in this grim accounting — fentanyl was detected in more than three in every four deaths.

On Thursday, the BC Coroners Service released a 34-page report that provided expanded information on British Columbians who died due to drug overdoses between 2016 and 2017.

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.

READ MORE: New BC based research could help prevent fatal drug overdoses

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The report — Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in BC: Findings of Coroners’ Investigations — looked into 872 drug overdose deaths during that time span and found:

  • More than half of the decedents had 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 per cent of decedents had reported pain-related issues;
  • 14 per cent of decedents lived in social or single-room occupancy housing and 9 per cent were homeless;
  • About one in every four deaths involved people, primarily males, working in trades or transport;
  • 65 per cent of decedents were never married and 18 per cent were previously separated or divorced; and,
  • 44 per cent of decedents were employed and 51 per cent unemployed.

“Illicit drugs continue to be the source of more than three deaths per day in B.C.,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “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.”

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

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The report also confirmed findings previously shared by the BC Coroners Service, including:

  • Four in every five decedents were male (81 per cent, or 707 of the 872 deaths);
  • About two-thirds of decedents lived in private residences.

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.

According to the BC Coroners Service, this is a 27 per cent decrease from the previous month (134 suspected overdose deaths were reported in July 2018). It also marks a 20 per cent decrease compared to August 2017.