2017 provincial death toll from fatal drug overdoses surpassed 1,000 in August

VANCOUVER, B.C. — B.C. has now officially had more than 1,000 people die from fatal illicit drug overdoses in 2017, and there are still four months left in the year.

The B.C. Coroners Service released statistics on the province’s ongoing overdoes epidemic, which shows that as of August 31st, 1,013 people have fatally overdosed on illicit drugs this year. 113 people died across B.C. in August, an increase of 79 percent over the same month a year ago, when 63 people died.

The rate of fatal overdoses where fentanyl was detected also continues to climb. So far this year, 823 fatal overdose victims had fentanyl detected in their bodies, compared to just 659 in all of 2016. Last year, fentanyl was detected in two thirds of overdose deaths, while this year four in five people that have fatally overdosed had fentanyl in their systems.

Northern Health continues to have the least fatal overdoses of any health authority, with 41 deaths so far this year. Northern Health’s rate of fatal overdoses is also the lowest in the province, with 21.6 deaths per 100,000. However, the number of fatal overdoses in Northern B.C. doubled in August compared to July, when there were four deaths from illicit drugs.

In the North, 34 of the 41 people that have died this year had fentanyl detected in their systems, which is just under 83 percent.

Northeast B.C. has had a total of 12 fatal overdoses this year, three of which occurred in August. Of those, fentanyl was detected in 10 fatal drug overdoses, or just over 83 percent of cases. While not as high as the Lower Mainland or the Greater Victoria area, the rate of fatal drug overdoses in Northeast B.C. so far this year now sits at 25.1 deaths per 100,000, an increase over last year’s rate of 23.5 deaths/100,000.

Last month at the UBCM conference in Vancouver, Premier John Horgan announced the launch of a provincial action plan to help combat the ongoing drug overdose epidemic.