FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Northeast B.C. reported three drug overdose deaths in July, according to the most recent B.C. Coroners Service report.
The northeast region reported 11 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 13 overdose deaths in July.
The highest number of fatal overdoses reported in the north since 2012 was 183 deaths in 2022.
In July 2023, the province reported 198 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, a 5 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in July 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 are in Northern Health (60 deaths per 100,000 people), followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (57 per 100,000).
The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has had the most overdose deaths so far in 2023, reporting 423.
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.
“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
“We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply. The unregulated illicit market is highly unpredictable and continues to put thousands of lives at risk each month. Despite recommendations for the urgent expansion of a safer drug supply, very few have access to a stable, lower-risk alternative.”
The number of overdoses from illicit drugs in July 2023 equals about 6.4 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 46 deaths per 100,000.
Most illicit drug overdoses occurred inside, most in private residences at 80 per cent. The remainder occurred outside, including vehicles, sidewalks, parks and other venues.
At 27 per cent, the age group with the highest overdoses is 30 to 39.
Males accounted for 83 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.