A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; B.C. drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The illicit drug crisis continued in B.C this October with five people dying every day and more deaths linked to “extreme concentrations” of the deadly drug fentanyl.

In data released Wednesday (Nov. 25), the BC Coroners Service said 162 people died in October, making it the fifth month where this year where overdose deaths topped 160. Deaths had decreased slightly in the two months prior, but rose again to make October the fourth most fatal month in 2020. So far this year, 1,386 people have died due to illicit drug overdoses in B.C.

The death toll last month is a 116 per cent increase over overdose deaths last October, and a 26 per cent increase over September deaths. Officials have said that the side affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as isolation and border restrictions, have led to a more toxic drug supply and more people using alone.

READ MORE: B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the overdose crisis in B.C.,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Exacerbating this is the highly toxic drug supply that exists in our communities right now.

More than 80 per cent of deaths take place inside. No deaths thus far have occurred at supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites.

The coroners service noted that while toxicology reports continue to show that the proportion of illicit drug toxicity deaths for which illicit fentanyl was detected continue to be down slightly in 2020, with 83 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2019, the concentration has increased.

“Post-mortem toxicology results suggest that there has been a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations in April to October 2020 compared with previous months,” the report stated. Extreme concentrations are defined as greater than 50ug/L (micrograms/litre). From April to October, 14 per cent of fatal overdoses showed extreme fentanyl concentration, compared to eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

Men continue to make up the vast majority of drug deaths, making up 80 per cent of fatalities this year so far. Seventy per cent of deaths were people between the ages of 30 and 59.

With the new data, the per-capita rate of illicit drug deaths has risen to a record 32.4 per 100,000. In the worst year prior, 2018, it was 31 per 100,000. The highest per-capita deaths were in Northern Health at 44 per 100,000 and in Vancouver Coastal at 38 per 100,000.

The highest number of overdose deaths this year took place in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health at 447 and 379, respectively. The lowest rate was in Fraser Health, B.C.’s most populous health authority, at 28 per 100,000.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisisopioidsoverdose

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Traffic impacts in the downtown Kitimat area are expected to be finished by 4:30 p.m. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
Traffic impact in the downtown Kitimat area

The impacted intersections are Haisla/Lahakas intersection and Kuldo/Haisla intersection

“Skeena,” by John Hudson and Paul Hanslow is one of five fonts in the running to become the default for Microsoft systems and Office programs. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Font named after Skeena River could become the next Microsoft default

One of the five new fonts will replace Calibri, which has been Microsoft’s default since 2007

Water will be turned off in Service Centre on May 5th, from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. (Black Press Media files)
Water in Service Centre will be turned off for system repairs

The water will be turned off on, May 5th from 9 p.m. until the following day at 5 a.m.

The Tamitik Status of Women Association has been receiving anti-racism funding since 2018 and has done a multitude of initiatives over the years. Unable to host in-person events, the TSWA plans to host virtual workshops for all who identify as a woman in Kitimat and Kitamaat Village. (Black Press file)
Tamitik Status of Women Association receive $7,500 in anti-racism funding

TSWA plans to hold women’s gathering events and engage with local government about diversity policies

A Rapid Word Collection workshop took place in 2020 where the Haisla community recorded thousands of words to help them reclaim their language. (Haisla Nation video screenshot)
Haisla reclaim their native language through word collection workshops

Over 10,000 words and 5,000 recordings are now available online

Jose Marchand prepares Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination doses at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is coming under fire after contradicting the advice Canadians have been receiving for weeks to take the first vaccine against COVID-19 that they’re offered. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Trudeau says he is glad he got AstraZeneca, vaccines are only way out of pandemic

‘The most important thing is to get vaccinated with the first vaccine offered to you’

Solar panels on a parking garage at the University of B.C. will be used to separate water into oxygen and hydrogen, the latter captured to supply a vehicle filling station. (UBC video)
UBC parkade project to use solar energy for hydrogen vehicles

Demonstration project gets $5.6M in low-carbon fuel credits

FILE – A student arrives at school as teachers dressed in red participate in a solidarity march to raise awareness about cases of COVID-19 at Ecole Woodward Hill Elementary School, in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. ‘should be able to’ offer 1st dose of COVID vaccine to kids 12+ by end of June: Henry

Health Canada authorized the vaccine for younger teens this morning

A woman in the Harrison Mills area was attacked by a cougar on Tuesday, May 4. B.C. Conservation Officers killed two male cougars in the area; the attack was determined to be predatory in nature. (File photo)
2 cougars killed following attack on woman in Agassiz area

Attack victim remains in hospital in stable condition

A woman wears a face mask and shield to curb the spread of COVID-19 while walking in North Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. CDC updates info, acknowledging small respiratory droplets can spread COVID-19

Large droplets, not aerosols had been fixture of public health messaging for many months

A picture of Shirley Ann Soosay was rendered from a postmortem photographer and circulated on social media. (DDP graphic)
B.C. genealogist key to naming murder victim in decades-old California cold case

In July 1980, Shirley Ann Soosay was raped and stabbed to death

Mary Kitagawa was born on Salt Spring Island and was seven years old when she was interned along with 22,000 B.C. residents in 1942. (B.C. government video)
B.C. funds health services for survivors of Japanese internment

Seniors describe legacy of World War II displacement

Meghan Gilley, a 35-year-old emergency room doctor and new mom was vaccinated from COVID-19 in January, while she was pregnant. She’s encouraging others to do the same. (Submitted)
‘The best decision’: B.C. mom encourages other pregnant women to get COVID-19 shot

Meghan Gilley, 35, delivered a healthy baby after being vaccinated against the virus while pregnant

Most Read