VICTORIA, B.C. – Northeast B.C. reported 12 illicit drug overdoses so far in 2022, according to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report.
One death was reported in the region in May, down from three in April.
In the last year, the month with the most drug toxicity deaths recorded in the region was January 2022, with five.
With 31 fatal overdoses, 2020 remains the year with the most deaths in the northeast since 2012.
Northern Health is currently looking for a location in Fort St. John for a proposed overdose prevention site.
“After a catastrophic 2021, I am saddened to report that we are, once again, on pace to lose a record number of our community members in 2022. The illicit drug supply in this province continues to be volatile and inconsistent and presents a significant risk to anyone who uses drugs,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, B.C. Coroners Service.
“I strongly urge those purchasing illicit substances to take every available precaution to protect yourself. Please start with a small amount of the drug, and make sure someone is present who can provide naloxone and call for emergency assistance if you experience a negative effect. Your life is at risk.”
There have been 68 overdose deaths in the north in 2022. The Northern Health region reported eight overdose deaths in May.
The highest fatal overdoses recorded in the north since 2012 were 147 deaths in 2021.
B.C. as a whole has had 940 overdose deaths so far in 2022.
In May 2022, the province reported 195 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, the highest number of fatalities ever recorded in the month of May.
December 2021 (223) was the only month in the past year that had more overdose deaths than January 2022 (212).
By Health Authority, in 2022, the highest rates were in Northern Health (53.3 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (50 per 100,000).
The Fraser Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2022, with 302.
The report states that rates in all health authorities except Northern Health have increased this month, though all rates are still elevated.
Compared to other causes of unnatural deaths, illicit drug overdoses continue to be the highest since about 2015, with suicide being the highest before that. The numbers had a slight dip in 2019 for illicit drug overdoses but went back on the rise in 2020-2021.
The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in May 2022 is equal to about 6.3 deaths per day.
Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria have had the highest number of illicit drug overdoses by township in 2022, while the rate in B.C. is 43 deaths per 100,000.
Most illicit drug overdoses occurred inside, most in private residences (84 per cent). The rest occurred outside, including vehicles, sidewalks, parks, and other venues.
At 25 per cent, the age group with the highest overdoses is 30 to 39.
Of the overdose deaths, 76 per cent of the deaths were male.
Illicit fentanyl and analogues were the top drugs involved in overdoses from 2019 to 2022 at 86 per cent, up from 5 per cent in 2021.
The ongoing opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control after being declared a public health emergency in B.C. in 2016.
The full report can be reviewed below: