Northeast B.C. reported six illicit drug overdoses so far in 2022, according to a recent coroners service report.
There was one death in February, down compared to the same time last year when there were three.
At 31 fatal overdoses, 2020 remains the year with the most in the northeast since 2012.
“As we approach the sixth anniversary of the declaration of the public-health emergency into substance-related harms, we are continuing to lose members of our communities at an unprecedented and terrifying rate,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
In total, there have been 32 overdose deaths in the north in 2022. The northern health region had 19 overdose deaths in January and 13 in February.
The highest fatal overdoses recorded in the north since 2012 were 147 deaths in 2021.
B.C. as a whole has had 382 overdose deaths so far in 2022, which is the highest to begin the year since 2012.
November 2021 and December 2021 were the only two months in the past year that had more overdose deaths than January 2022.
“The deaths of another 174 B.C. residents, so many of them young and middle-aged men with years of life ahead of them, is yet another reminder that urgent action is needed on a province-wide scale. I extend my deepest sympathy to the many families, friends, and communities who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” Lapointe said.
By Health Authority, the highest rates were in Northern Health (63 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (53 per 100,000)
The Fraser Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2022, with 121.
In comparison to other causes of unnatural deaths, illicit drug overdoses have been the highest since about 2015, with suicide being the highest before that. The numbers took a short dive in 2019 for illicit drug overdoses but went back on the rise in 2020-2021.
The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in February 2022 is equal to about 6.2 deaths per day.
Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria had the highest number of illicit drug overdoses by township in 2022, while the rate in B.C. is 44 deaths per 100,000.
The majority (86 per cent) of illicit drug overdoses occurred inside, with most being in private residences. The rest occurred outside, including vehicles, sidewalks, parks, and other venues.
The majority age group of overdoses is 30 to 59 at 75 per cent, and 78 per cent of the deaths were male in 2022.
Illicit fentanyl and analogues were the top drugs involved in overdoses from 2019 to 2021 at 85.1 per cent, up from 5 per cent in 2012.
There is no indication that prescribed safe supply is contributing to these numbers, and no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.