Northeast B.C. reports one drug overdose in August

VICTORIA, B.C. — There was one illicit drug overdose death reported in Northeast B.C. in August.

The region reported 15 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.

“In their March 2022 report, the subject matter experts of the recent Coroners Service Death Review Panel highlighted the urgent need for the development of a provincial framework for safer supply distribution,” said Lisa Lapoint, chief coroner.

“This measure, along with a governance framework that sets clear goals, targets and timeframes for reducing substance-related deaths and the establishment of an evidence-based continuum of care for those experiencing problematic substance use, were identified as three key areas to address this public health crisis.”

There have been 107 illicit overdose deaths in the north in 2022. The Northern Health region reported 12 overdose deaths in August.

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

B.C., as a whole, has had 1,468 overdose deaths so far in 2022.

“The illicit drug market continues to pose immense risks to people across our province,” said Lapoint, chief coroner.

“People in communities across B.C. are continuing to lose friends, family members and colleagues to the unprecedented toxicity of the unregulated drug supply. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving the loss of a loved one.”

In August 2022, the province reported 169 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, a 14 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in August 2021.

“In August, we lost 169 people to the poisoned drug supply. These are devastating losses for families, friends, communities and loved ones. My heart is with everyone who had such a tragic loss,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, in a statement.

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

By Health Authority, in 2022, the highest rates were in Northern Health (52 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (48 per 100,000).

The Fraser Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2022, with 455.

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 August 2022 equals about 5.5 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 (82 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 40-49 and 50-59.

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 was the top drug involved in overdoses from 2019 to 2022 at 86 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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