Drug overdose deaths in B.C. have surpassed 2016 total: coroner


The BC Coroners Service says the number of overdose deaths in the province during the first eight months of this year has now surpassed the total number of overdose deaths in 2016.

According to the BC Coroners Service, 1,013 have died from a suspected illicit drug overdose so far this year. In 2016, 922 people died from a suspected drug overdose.

Preliminary data indicates that there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August, which is more than 3.5 deaths per day and a 79 per cent increase from August 2016.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe called the number of deaths heartbreaking.

“This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a coordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue,” she said in a statement.

Fentanyl was detected either alone or with another drug in more than 80 per cent of the deaths, according to the latest figures for 2017. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs – most often heroin, methamphetamines or cocaine.

Lapointe said it’s important for people to know that no illicit substance in the province can be considered safe, whether you know the dealer or not.

“Anyone using an illicit substance must be prepared for an adverse effect and must have someone else present who is willing and able to help.”

The BC Coroners Service said Vancouver had the highest rate of deaths in the province. There have been 255 drug overdose deaths in Vancouver this year. Surrey has the second highest number at 123 deaths followed by Victoria at 65 deaths.

Almost three out of every four deaths involved people between the ages of 30 and 59 years. Four out of five deaths were male. Ninety per cent of deaths occurred indoors and there were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug-overdose prevention sites.

According to the BC Coroners Service, the number of overdose deaths in the province this year has surpassed the total number of deaths in 2016. (CBC)

Alexa HuffmanAlexa Huffman

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