The month of November brought the highest number of illicit drug deaths in B.C. for a single month in recent memory, according to the latest statistics from the BC Coroners Service.
Provisional data shows that a total of 128 persons died as a result of illicit drug use during November, an average of more than four a day. The previous high for a single month was 82 in January, 2016.
The November numbers bring the total illicit drug deaths for the year to 755, an increase of 70.4% over the number of deaths occurring the same time period last year.
Fentanyl remains present in a high number of illicit drug deaths. From Jan. 1 through Oct. 31, 2016, fentanyl was detected in 374 cases, about 60% of all illicit drug deaths. That is almost triple the number of fentanyl-detected deaths for the same period last year. (The figures for fentanyl-detected deaths are one month behind those for illicit drug overdoses in general because of the need to wait for more detailed toxicology reports.)
Indications are that the number of deaths is remaining high. On one day last week (Dec. 15), at least 11 persons died of illicit drug overdose deaths, a majority of them on the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
With the number of deaths remaining so high, the BC Coroners Service continues to stress the importance of harm-reduction measures that need to be followed by anyone using any illicit drugs or accompanying anyone who is using. These include never using alone, having naloxone and medical help readily available when using, using an overdose-prevention site or supervised-consumption site wherever possible, and knowing the signs of an overdose and calling 911 immediately.
The BC Coroners Service continues to work with the provincial government’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Response and with health, community and law-enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce this death toll.
The updated report on illicit drug deaths can be found at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/illicit-drug.pdf
The updated report on the number of deaths involving fentanyl can be found at: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/public-safety-and-emergency-services/death-investigation/statistical/fentanyl-detected-overdose.pdf