VICTORIA (NEWS 1130) — September saw a slight drop in deaths related to illicit drug overdoses in B.C., but still more than four a day, according to a report released Tuesday by the Coroners Service.
Overall, there were 127 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in September — the seventh straight month they have topped the century mark in the province and a 112 per cent increase over the same month a year ago.
B.C. set a record with 177 illicit drug toxicity and fentanyl-detected drug deaths this past June, then had 175 more in July. August saw another 147 such deaths.
So far this year — and concurrently with the COVID-19 pandemic — 84 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred indoors.
Of those, 56 per cent were in private residences, while 28 per cent were in other residences, including social and supportive housing, single-room occupancy buildings, shelters, and hotels. Another 15 per cent were in vehicles or parks, or on sidewalks and streets.
“This is another opportunity to remind people that most of our overdose deaths are now happening in people at home, and their families may not know that they are using drugs,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the day prior.
BC’s opioid overdose numbers in Sept.:
*127 illicit drug deaths
*That’s a 112% over the # of deaths in Sept. 2019
*About 4.2 drug deaths a day
*Most dying are 30-59 and typically men
*#Vancouver, #SurreyBC and Victoria seeing highest # of drug toxicity deaths in 2020
— Sonia Aslam (@SoniaSAslam) October 20, 2020
She knew of an incident involving five people in a Surrey home over the weekend who had to be revived with naloxone after overdosing on contaminated cocaine.
“We are well aware that our overdose crisis is concentrated in many places in this province and certainly the data we reported on last month shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the toxicity of the street drug supply,” Henry added.
According to the report, the illicit drug toxicity category includes heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, and fentanyl.
So far this year, 70 per cent of such overdose deaths have been people aged 30 to 59. Males have accounted for 80 per cent of deaths in 2020 to date.
Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria have experienced the highest number of overdose this year.
Both male and female illicit drug toxicity death rates have decreased in recent months from highs in May, June, and July.
Henry said teams of health officials are working in every region of the province to support people who use drugs, to make sure they know help is available.
“And people are afraid to talk about it because of the stigma that’s associated and the shame that’s associated with drug use. Now is an important time to have those conversations with the people who you love, to make sure they know that there is support out there, and that there is a place to go, and that we can talk about this.”
Horgan admits more needs to be done
NDP Leader John Horgan said the COVID-19 pandemic hindered progress that was being made to address the opioid crisis.
He admits more needs to be done to drive the numbers down and promised more front-line support if his party is elected.
“We continue to work with frontline workers to make sure that they have the tools they need to help people in distress. The numbers are going down, but they’re not going down enough,” he said.
“Certainly, we need to re-double our efforts.”
He also said work continues to re-open Riverview, a long-closed mental hospital in Coquitlam.
“We’re looking very hard at the Riverview land as a sanctuary for people struggling at the back end of overdose responses.”