Illicit drug death numbers in B.C. soar

Illicit drug death numbers in B.C. soar

Deaths in the first eight months of 2017 have already surpassed 2016 totals.

Drug overdose deaths in the first eight months of 2017 show signs of a deepening overdose crisis in B.C., as a contaminated drug supply continues to pose a risk to people using illicit substances.

According to data released 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 indicates there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August 2017: more than three-and-a-half deaths per day, and a 79 per cent 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.

Fentanyl was detected in more than 80 per cent (823) of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date in 2017, representing an increase of 151 per cent 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 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 present who is willing and able to help.”

Almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years, and four out of five who died were male. Nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors; but no deaths occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.

There have been 32 illicit drug deaths in Kamloops so far in 2017, compared with 43 deaths in all of 2016.

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