Northeast B.C. reports two drug overdoses in June

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VICTORIA, B.C. – Northeast B.C. reported 14 illicit drug overdoses so far in 2022, according to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report.

Two deaths were reported in the region in June, up from one in May.

In the last year, the month with the most drug toxicity deaths recorded in the region was January 2022, with five.

With 32 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.

No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites, according to the corners service. The report states that there is no indication that prescribed safe supply is contributing to illicit drug deaths.

“Each and every person who died this year due to the poisoned drug supply was special and important and represent a deep loss to our communities,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“My heart goes out to everyone who is grieving. No words can replace these losses.”

There have been 81 overdose deaths in the north in 2022. The Northern Health region reported 11 overdose deaths in June.

The highest fatal overdoses recorded in the north since 2012 were 154 deaths in 2021.

B.C. as a whole has had 1,095 overdose deaths so far in 2022.

In June 2022, the province reported 146 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, a decrease from previous years.

December 2021 (223) was the only month in the past year with more overdose deaths than January 2022 (212).

By Health Authority, in 2022, the highest rates were in Northern Health (53 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (47 per 100,000).

The Fraser Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2022, with 352.

The report notes that drug rates in Northern Health have increased in June and decreased in all other health authorities.

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.

Major Causes of Unnatural Deaths in B.C. (B.C. Coroners Service)

The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in June 2022 equals about 4.9 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 42 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 24 per cent, the age groups with the highest overdoses are 50-59, 40-49 and 30-39.

Of the overdose deaths, 78 per cent of the deaths were male.

Illicit Drug Toxicity Death Rates by Sex and Month, 2020-2022 (B.C. Coroners Service)

Illicit fentanyl and analogues were the top drugs involved in overdoses from 2019 to 2022 at 85.7 per cent.

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 viewed below:

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