VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The suspected overdose deaths of 11 people last week in Vancouver has set what the mayor calls a “ghastly” death-count record for 2018.
The city says the week of July 23 was the worst on record this year for suspected overdose deaths based on statistics from the police department.
So far in 2018, 206 people have died in Vancouver from suspected overdoses.
The latest overdose statistics for the province show there was a dip in the number of suspected illicit drug deaths in June compared with the same month a year earlier.
There were 105 illicit drug overdose deaths across BC in June, a drop from 123 in the same month last year.
Mayor Gregor Robertson called last week’s death count for the city “simply ghastly” in a news release.
“We don’t see signs that we’ve turned a corner on this public health disaster in Vancouver,” he said. “A poisoned supply of street drugs continues to kill our loved ones and devastate families across our city. Lives are on the line — people need access to safe prescription drugs rather than being forced to turn to the deadly drugs from organized crime on our streets.”
The number of deaths due to overdoses last week must still be confirmed by the BC Coroners Service.
The fire department says it responded to 147 overdose calls last week, a 47 per cent increase from the previous week, and 24 per cent higher than the weekly average for 2017.
The city says frontline workers suspect the increase in overdoses and related deaths are due to high toxicity in street drugs.
In Vancouver last year, 366 people died from suspected overdoses.
Across BC, fentanyl has been detected in 81 per cent of the drug overdose deaths in the first six months of 2018, the coroner’s service said this week. The powerful painkiller appears to account for the spike in illicit drug overdose deaths since 2012, as the number of deaths excluding fentanyl has remained relatively stable since 2011, it said.
Illicit drug overdose deaths climbed to more than 1,400 in 2017 from about 300 in 2012, surpassing suicide and car accidents to become the leading cause of unnatural deaths in British Columbia.