B.C. overdose numbers falling

Illicit drug deaths down month-over-month, year-over-year

Illicit drug death numbers continue to fall in B.C., say BC Corners Service figures released Friday.

There were 73 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in June, a 35 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in June 2018, which saw 113 deaths.

It’s also a 15 per cent decrease from the number of deaths occurring in May, which saw 86 deaths.

There were approximately 2.4 illicit drug toxicity deaths per day in June 2019.

The decrease numbers are also reflected in year-over-year numbers. For 2019’s first six months, there were 538 illicit drug toxicity deaths, a drop of about 30 per cent compared to the same period in 2018 when 763 were reported.

By local health area, the rates of illicit drug toxicity deaths are highest in Princeton, Merritt, Vancouver, Grand Forks and Hope.

In 2019, 71 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59 years. Individuals aged 19 to 59 years have accounted for 89 per cent of all illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2019. Males accounted for 78 per cent of all suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2019.

Fentanyl was detected in more than four of every five illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2018 and 2019. Carfentanil contamination in the drug supply appears to be falling. After higher levels were detected in the first four months of 2019, peaking at 32 deaths in March, there were decreases in the numbers of deaths with carfentanil detected in May with 13 deaths and June with four.

No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption sites or drug overdose prevention sites.

The B.C. Centre fort Disease Control’s August Overdose Response Indicator Report said the majority of people who overdose and are assisted by paramedics survive.

“For those who died, in many cases 911 was not called,” the report said.

It said the number of overdoses attended by paramedics has increased four-fold since January 2016. Many were non-fatal.

“There are notable peaks in November 2016, May 2017, and July 2018. A brief dip in rates occurred from   October to February 2017. While the rate of events has steadied in late 2018, March 2019 saw the   highest rate ever at 31 events/100,000,” the report said.

Illicit drug overdose deaths reported by the BC Coroners Service include overdose deaths involving street drugs (controlled and illegal drugs: heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, illicit fentanyl).

Reporter Jeremy Hainsworth can be contacted at jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

This story has been updated since it was originally posted.

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