Northeast B.C. reports zero drug overdoses in July

VICTORIA, B.C. – There were zero deaths reported in Northeast B.C. in July, down from two in June.

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

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.

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.

There have been 95 overdose deaths in the north in 2022. The Northern Health region reported 13 overdose deaths in July.

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

B.C. as a whole has had 1,297 overdose deaths so far in 2022.

In July 2022, the province reported 192 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, a 4 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in July 2021.

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 (49 per 100,000).

The Fraser Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2022, with 404.

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 July 2022 equals about 6.2 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 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 86 per cent.

“The street drug supply continues to be terribly, increasingly toxic. In the first months of 2020, the concentration of fentanyl detected in illicit drug deaths was between 4 per cent and 8 per cent. In July 2022, it increased to 23 per cent,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“That is why we continue to expand much-needed harm-reduction services, particularly safe supply and inhalation overdose prevention sites, and we are leading the country on decriminalization of people who use drugs.”

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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