VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — In November, 153 people died of illicit drug overdoses in B.C., according to the province’s Coroners Service.
That’s an 89 per cent increase from the same month last year, however, it is a slight decrease from October when 162 lives were lost.
“Tragically, as we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a toxic illicit drug supply,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a release. “In the five years of this public health emergency, more than 6,500 families have experienced the grief and sadness of losing a loved one to the challenging medical condition of drug addiction. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving a family member, friend or colleague due to this disease.”
The latest data from the B.C. Coroners Service shows an average of five Britsh Columbians a day are dying from an illicit drug overdose.
There have been 1,548 overdose deaths in 2020 so far, with each of B.C.’s health authorities at or near their highest monthly totals.
Impact of access to harm reduction
It’s been five years since the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency, and Lapointe said the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been deadly for those experiencing problematic substance use.
She noted ensuring people have access to “critical harm reduction measures,” such as naloxone, overdose prevention sites, and drug-checking services, can mean the difference between life and death.
“Providing those with substance use disorder access to pharmaceutical alternatives will be of immense benefit to reduce the harms and suffering resulting from the ‘for-profit’ illicit drug market,” Lapointe added.
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There were more cases with “extreme fentanyl concentrations” from April to November, toxicology results suggest, when compared to the year before.
People between 30 and 59 years old represent 70 per cent of deaths this year. For the past several months, death rates for people aged 19 to 59 have trended downward, but for people over 60 years old, it has gone up.
Men account for 81 per cent of deaths in 2020 and in November, the death rate continued to rise. For women, the rate has gone down since October.
So far this year, 55% of all overdose deaths in #BC have been in private homes and zero have been at supervised injection sites.
“Tragically, as we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost….” —Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.#bcpoli
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) December 21, 2020
There weren’t any deaths reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
This new data comes as a Canada-wide phone line aimed at preventing overdoses, launched. The service connects anyone using drugs alone to a volunteer who can call for help quickly if needed.