VANCOUVER, B.C. — Health officials announced today that more than 1,400 British Columbians died due to suspected illicit drug overdoses in 2017, according to data released today by the BC Coroners Service.
Preliminary data indicates that 1,422 are suspected of having died from a drug overdose across B.C. in 2017, a 43 percent increase over 2016 when there were 993 overdose deaths. The Coroners Service did say, however, that there were far fewer deaths in the last four months of last year compared with the first eight.
“By continuing to provide timely, accurate data to the public, and policy- and decision-makers throughout the province, we’re able to support evidence-based measures to keep British Columbians safer when it comes to substance use,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “There is no question that this is a public-health crisis that is impacting people from all walks of life, and we need to continue to work together to help reduce stigma and increase awareness and support for those at risk.”
103 suspected drug overdose deaths occurred in November, which is a drop of 37 compared to the same month a year ago. December saw even fewer: 99 people are suspected of having died from a drug overdose, which is 65 fewer than in December 2016.
Approximately 81 percent of suspected illicit drug deaths last had fentanyl detected, up from 67 percent in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.
The overdose death rate in Northern B.C. was by far the lowest in the province, with a rate of 19.8 deaths per 100,000 people. 56 people are suspected of fatally overdosing under the Northern Health Authority’s jurisdiction, of whom 49 had fentanyl detected in their system. In Northeast B.C., the overdose epidemic appeared to have plateaued last year, as the region recorded the exact same number of overdoses all year as in 2016: 17 in total. Fourteen of the 17 deceased had fentanyl detected, which works out to a rate of 82 percent.
Approximately four out of five people who died were male. The Coroners Service also noted that no deaths occurred at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site.