Drug overdoses claimed five lives in Northeast BC in January, according to a BC Coroners Service report on Friday.

The same amount of fatal drug overdoses was reported during the same month in 2021.

The region had the third highest death rate in the province at 81.9 per 100,000 people— almost double the provincial average of 47.2.

Northern Health has reported 19 overdose deaths so far in 2022, making it the highest death rate among BC health authorities at 75 deaths per 100,000 people.

Across the province, there were 207 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths to start 2022, which is the fourth consecutive month with 200 or more deaths, according to the coroners service.

This is a 10 per cent increase compared to the 188 deaths in January 2021. and equates to about 6.7 deaths per day.

The majority of illicit drug toxicity deaths were among males (82 per cent), and fentanyl was found in over 80 per cent of the deaths.

A report was released by the coroners service earlier this week that included recommendations from the chief coroner to help address the opioid crisis.

“As we near the six-year anniversary of the declaration of BC’s public health emergency into substance-related harms, it is clearer than ever that traditional approaches to substance use are hurting people and costing lives,” Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“I am hopeful that the recent recommendations made by the Coroners Service Drug Toxicity Death Review Panel will support the meaningful change underway in our province and an end to this tragic crisis.”

Between August 1st, 2020 to July 31st, 2021, Northern Health had the highest rate of illicit drug toxicity deaths at 48 per 100,000 residents, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health at 44 deaths per 100,000.

Northeast BC reported 27 illicit drug overdoses in 2021, the second-highest recorded in the region, as there were 31 deaths in 2020.