December 27, 2018 6:16 pm

B.C. drug overdose deaths on pace with 2017’s record tally


Four deaths a day.

That was the provincial average of illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia for the month of November, according to a new B.C. Coroners Service report.

Released on Thursday, the 21-page report announced that there were 120 illicit drug overdose deaths last month, bringing the year-to-date total to 1,380. In November 2017, there were 106 drug overdose deaths, which brought the year-to-date total to 1,381.

A graphic showing major causes of unnatural deaths in B.C.

B.C. Coroners Service

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“This is a 13-per-cent increase over the number of deaths occurring in November 2017 (106) and a nine-per-cent increase over the number of deaths occurring in October 2018 (110),” the report stated.

For December 2017, there were 105 overdose deaths, which pushed the year total to a staggering 1,486. Ten years ago, in 2008, there were 183 recorded drug overdose deaths in B.C. In 2016, the number was 993.

Time will tell what the statistics for December 2018 will be, but the numbers for November were grim.

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There were 42 drug overdose deaths for the month in the Fraser Health Authority and 40 in the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, followed by 16 for the Interior Health Authority, 15 for Vancouver Island Health Authority and seven for the Northern Health Authority.

Four of the five provincial health authorities showed an increase from November 2017 (Fraser, 38 to 42; Vancouver Coastal, 34 to 40; Vancouver Island, 14 to 15; Interior, 17 to 16; Northern, three to seven).

A graphic showing illicit drug overdose death rates by regional health authority from 2008 to 2018.

B.C. Coroners Service

The report also stated:

  • In 2018, 71 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59. Individuals aged 19 to 59 have accounted for 91 per cent of illicit drug overdose deaths, and men accounted for 80 per cent of all suspected illicit drug overdose deaths over the same period.
  • The three townships experiencing the highest number of illicit drug overdoses in 2018 are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.
  • Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities have had the highest number of illicit drug overdose deaths (462 and 408 deaths, respectively) in 2018, making up 63 per cent of all illicit drug overdose deaths during this period.
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths (37 deaths per 100,000 individuals), followed by the Interior Health Authority (31 deaths per 100,000 individuals) in 2018. Overall, the rate of illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. was 31 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2018.
  • In 2018, 86 per cent of fatal illicit drug overdoses occurred indoors (58 per cent in private residences, 25 per cent in other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters and hotels and four per cent in other indoor locations) and 12 per cent occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks and other areas.
  • In the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, other residences (46 per cent) were the most common place of fatal overdose followed by private residences (38 per cent).
  • There were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
  • A review of completed cases from 2016 to 2018 indicates that the top four detected drugs relevant to illicit drug overdose deaths were fentanyl (78 per cent), cocaine (49 per cent), methamphetamine/amphetamine (31 per cent) and heroin (21 per cent).

The complete report can be found here and here.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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