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VICTORIA, B.C. — Two illicit drug overdose deaths were reported in Northeast B.C. in September.

The region reported 18 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.

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

There were 126 illicit overdose deaths reported in the north in 2022. The Northern Health region reported 14 overdose deaths in September.

The highest number of fatal overdoses recorded in the north since 2012 was 154 deaths in 2021.

Recently, in Fort St. John, the Fort St. John RCMP was called for assistance to a medical emergency suspected to be a drug overdose of a youth. The youth was pronounced deceased at the scene.

“So many have been profoundly affected by this terrible crisis. My heart grieves for the people lost and the families, friends and loved ones they left behind. We are determined to end this tragic loss of life,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

B.C., as a whole, has had 1,644 overdose deaths so far in 2022.

In September 2022, the province reported 171 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, an eight per cent increase from the number of deaths in September 2021.

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 (55 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 492.

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

The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in September 2022 equals about 5.7 deaths per day.

“Separating people from the increasingly toxic and unpredictable drug supply is important to preventing drug poisonings and helping people stabilize their lives. That’s why in 2020, B.C. became the first province in Canada to introduce prescribed safer supply; we have been expanding it ever since,” said Malcolmson.

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 (83 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 50 to 59.

Of the overdose deaths, 79 per cent of the deaths were male.

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

“Although progress on building a system of care is being made, the illicit drug supply is more lethal than ever, and we know there is more to do. We won’t stop working until all British Columbians can get the help they need, when they need it,” Malcomson concluded.

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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Shailynn Foster

Shailynn Foster is a news reporter for energeticcity.ca. Shailynn has been writing since she was 7 years old, but only recently started her journey as a journalist. Shailynn was born and raised in Fort St. John and she watches way too much YouTube, Netflix and Disney+ during the week while playing DND on the weekends.