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Overdoses pass suicide as No. 1 cause of unnatural death


A contaminated drug supply continues to pose risk to people using substances, according to the province’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

According to data released today by the BC Coroners Service, British Columbia’s illicit drug overdose deaths, through the first eight months of 2017, already have surpassed the 2016 total for the entire year.

Preliminary data indicate there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August 2017, more than three-and-a-half deaths per day and a 79 per cent increase from August 2016. The suspected number of illicit drug overdose deaths for the year to date is now 1,013, up from 547 at this time in 2016.

There were 16 overdose deaths in Prince George between January 1 and August 31 this year. That compares to 18 all of last year, 12 in 2015, and 10 in 2014. In 2010 there was only one overdose death in the city.

Over 80 per cent (823) of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date in the province in 2017 had fentanyl detected, representing an increase of 151 per cent over the same period in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.

“It’s heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths throughout the province despite the numerous initiatives and harm-reduction measures in place,” said Lapointe. “This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a co-ordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue. We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your 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.”

Quick Facts:

  • Current key trends in 2017 suspected illicit drug-overdose death cases:
    • Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths among all health authorities at 38.9 deaths per 100,000 individuals and also experienced the largest increase in rate from 2016 at a 63 per cent increase;
    • almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years;
    • four out of five who died were male;
    • nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, including more than half in private residences; and
    • no deaths occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.

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