Media Contacts

Andy Watson

Manager, Strategic Communications
BC Coroners Service
250 356-9253


Facts about overdose deaths in B.C.
  • From April to July 2020, approximately 13% of cases with fentanyl detected had extreme fentanyl concentrations (exceeding 50 micrograms per litre) as compared to 8% between January 2019 and March 2020.
  • A review of completed cases from 2016 to 2019 indicates that the top four detected drugs relevant to illicit drug toxicity deaths were fentanyl (83%), cocaine (50%), methamphetamine/amphetamine (34%) and heroin (15%).
  • Between April 2020 and July 2020, more than one-third (35%) of illicit drug toxicity deaths involved people 50 years of age or older, compared to 26% between January 2020 and March 2020. In 2018 and 2019, 31% of decedents were 50 or older.
  • In 2020, 85% of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred inside (56% in private residences and 29% in other residences, including social and supportive housing, single residence occupancies, shelters and hotels and other indoor locations) and 14% occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks, etc.
  • By health authority in 2020, the highest rates were in Vancouver Coastal and Northern health authorities (35 deaths per 100,000 individuals). Overall, the rate in B.C. is 31 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2020, similar to rates in 2017 and 2018.
  • By health services delivery area in 2020, South Vancouver Island, Vancouver and Thompson Cariboo Shuswap have experienced the largest increase in the monthly average of illicit drug toxicity deaths between April and July 2020, compared to the period between January and March 2020.
  • By local health area in 2018 to 2020, the highest rates of illicit drug toxicity deaths were in Hope, Lillooet, Vancouver, Grand Forks and Peace River North.
  • As reported on July 6 by the First Nations Health Authority, the toll of the illicit drug toxicity crisis on First Nations in B.C. is rising again in 2020, with a 93% increase in deaths among First Nations people in B.C. from January to May of this year, representing 89 deaths of First Nations individuals.
  • First Nations people represent 3.4% of the province’s population, yet have accounted for 16% of all illicit drug deaths in B.C. from January to May 2020, a rate of more than five times higher than other B.C. residents.
  • In May, the Provincial Health Services Authority launched its Lifeguard app to help prevent overdoses. The app is a made-in-B.C. resource to reduce risk for people who use substances.
  • In July, paramedics in B.C. responded to the highest number of overdose calls ever recorded since the opioid crisis was officially declared in 2016. Paramedics were called to 2,706 overdose calls in July, or 87 overdose calls a day. The average is usually about 2,000 overdose calls a month. Most were males aged 21 to 40 years.
  • No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.