Northeast B.C. reports two drug overdoses in June

Northeast B.C. reported two drug overdose deaths in June, according to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report.
A naloxone kit on a white background with pieces of the kit sticking out of a black bag.
A naloxone kit. ( Canva )

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Northeast B.C. reported two drug overdose deaths in June, according to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report.

The northeast region reported eight illicit drug overdoses in 2023.

Last year, the region recorded the most drug toxicity deaths in April and October, with three deaths each month.

With 32 fatal overdoses recorded, 2020 remains the year with the most deaths in the northeast since 2012.

The report states there is no indication that prescribed safe supply contributed to illicit drug deaths.

The Northern Health region reported 15 overdose deaths in June.

The highest number of fatal overdoses reported in the north since 2012 was 183 deaths in 2022.

In June 2023, the province reported 186 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, a 17 per cent increase from the number of deaths in June 2022.

December 2021 (229) was the only month in the past with more overdose deaths across the province than January 2022 (216).

By Health Authority, in 2023, the highest rates were in Northern Health (60 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (57 per 100,000).

The Vancouver Coastal Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2023, reporting 363.

Compared to other causes of unnatural deaths, illicit drug overdoses have continued to be the highest in the province since about 2015, with suicide being the highest before that. The number of illicit drug overdoses dropped slightly in 2019 but went back on the rise in 2020.

“Illicit fentanyl continues to drive the crisis, which is causing deaths in large and small municipalities, towns and cities across the province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. 

“This health emergency is not confined to one neighbourhood or one demographic. Anyone accessing an illicit substance is at risk of serious harm or death.”

The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in June 2023 equals about 6.1 deaths per day across the province.

Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria have had the highest number of illicit drug overdoses by township in 2023, while the rate in B.C. is 45 deaths per 100,000.

Most illicit drug overdoses occurred inside, with 81 per cent happening in private residences. The remainder occurred outside areas, including vehicles, sidewalks, parks, and other venues.

At 28 per cent, the age group with the highest overdoses is 50 to 59.

Males accounted for 74 per cent of the overdose deaths.

The ongoing opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control after being declared a public health emergency in B.C. in 2016.


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