October was B.C.’s deadliest month for illicit drug overdoses: coroner report

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There were more fatal overdoses in October than any other month since the beginning of the health crisis, and 2021 became the deadliest year for overdoses just 10 months in, according to a new report from the BC Coroner’s Service.

There were 201 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in October, the largest number ever recorded in a month, according to the report.

That means between January and October, there were 1,782 suspected illicit drug deaths — the most recorded in a calendar year.

With October’s death toll, the province eclipses the previous record for fatal overdoses set in July, when there were 192 deaths, while the 1,782 deaths so far this year exceeds the 1,765 deaths recorded in 2020.

“It is heartbreaking that we continue to lose more lives to toxic drugs, and October was particularly tragic with over 200 deaths, the most ever recorded in a month. No words can replace a loved one lost. I feel British Columbia’s grief and frustration,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.

“Almost every person in the province knows someone whose life has been touched by the poisoned drug crisis. I am so sorry for each loss and send strength to everyone who is mourning someone they love.”

Malcolmson said the overdose crisis adds to the challenges the province has been facing with flooding, wildfires and heat domes and the discovery of unmarked graves at former residential schools.

“As we face the most devastating year on record, we continue to do everything we can to turn this drug poisoning crisis around. We are expanding substance-use treatment and recovery services in our health-care system and leading the country on decriminalization and prescribed safer supply,” she said.

“We are also expanding our prescribed safer supply program, to help separate more people from the toxic illicit drug supply. These measures will save lives. And we are committed to do much more until no person is left behind.”

The cities seeing the highest number of overdose deaths are Vancouver, which has recorded 419 deaths so far this year, Surrey (221 deaths) and Victoria (110 deaths).

The City of Nanaimo has seen 37 illicit drug overdose deaths so far this year, one fewer than it saw in all of 2020.

The BC Coroner’s Service says that so far in 2021, 71 per cent of people who have died were between the ages of 30 and 59, while 79 per cent were male.

Eighty-three per cent of deaths occurred inside buildings — 55 per cent of which were in private residences and the remaining 28 per cent in other residences like social and supportice housing.

Data suggests that in 2021, fentanyl was detected in approximately 84 per cent of deaths.

The report notes that no deaths were reported at supervised drug consumption or overdose prevention sites, and there is “no indication that prescribed safe supply is contributing to illicit drug deaths.”



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