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Many opioid overdose deaths happening in homes: coroner

Last Updated May 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm PDT

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Summary

BC on track to outpace last year's record number of opioid overdose deaths

Most of the people dying of overdoses are men

VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) – Further proof the opioid crisis in this province is totally out of control as the BC Coroner’s service says there were 136 suspected overdose deaths in April. That amounts to almost double the number of deaths compared to the same month last year.

The newest data brings the total number of overdose deaths in the province to 488 in the first four months of 2017. Men account for over 80 per cent of the deaths and the majority were aged 30 to 49.

What’s interesting about these latest statistics is nine in 10 overdose deaths happened indoors, including more than half in private homes. The coroner says no deaths took place at supervised consumption sites, like Insite on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“It is of great concern that despite the harm-reduction measures now in place and the public-safety messages issued, many people are still using illicit drugs in private residences where help is not readily available,” says Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe. “I strongly urge those using illicit drugs to do so only at a safe consumption site or drug overdose prevention site, if one is accessible. If one of these sites is not accessible, please use only a small amount of the drug initially and only in the presence of someone willing and able to administer naloxone and call 911 if required. The risks associated with all illicit drugs in the province are extreme, and access to emergency medical assistance is essential to prevent fatal consequences.”

Dr. Perry Kendall is urging anyone who is using or is thinking about using drugs to never do it alone and to have an antidote, like Naloxone, nearby. “We’re seeing people who are employed — nurses, business people, people with jobs [using.] If we can deal with the stigma to see this as a medical issue that may help, but it’s very hard to reach people who don’t want anybody to know that they are dependent on these drugs and to the degree to which they are dependent on prescription drugs.”

Illicit Drug Overdose Report -- BC Coroners Service

 

Vancouver had the highest number of fatalities of any municipality, with 144, followed by 51 in Surrey and 37 in Victoria.

With these latest stats, BC is on track to outpace the number of overdose deaths from last year. “I think we’ve never had such good penetration with the messages, but I think we have people who are using drugs that they may not even think contain opioids. We’ve had young kids using stuff that they thought was ecstasy. We’ve had people buying, what they thought, was cocaine only to find it’s contaminated with synthetic opioids. And there are people who are very sick who are using these drugs to stave off withdrawal symptoms and they are at risk.”

Overdose deaths have been largely attributed to the synthetic opioid fentanyl, which was connected to nearly 45 per cent of drug deaths between 2015 and 2016.

There were more than 920 opioid overdose deaths in BC last year alone.