Heartfelt messages are left on a table as people come out to mark International Overdose Awareness Day during a mass group naloxone training seminar at Centennial Square in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday August 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

First 8 months of fatal overdoses in B.C. have now exceeded 2019 death toll

Nine people died every two days in August, BC Coroners Service data shows

In the first eight months of 2020, B.C. has already surpassed last year’s total of illicit drug overdose deaths.

Just shy of 150 people fatally overdosed in August, or roughly nine people every two days, bringing the total since January to 1,068 deaths, according to data released Wednesday (Sept. 23) by the BC Coroners Service.

In 2019, 983 people died – a majority, or due to illicit fentanyl, a powerful street-level opioid.

Broken down by city, Vancouver saw the lions share of deaths so far this year, at 259, followed by Surrey (130), Victoria (95) and Kelowna and Kamloops (both 36).

Data shows that fatal overdose rates, however, have increased in recent months in the Northern Health region.

Amid the pandemic, the toxicity of the street-level drug supply has drastically increased, sparking concerns by top doctors and researchers, including provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

Once again, post-mortem toxicology testing data published in this most recent report suggests an increase in the number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations (exceeding 50 micrograms per litre) in the summer, compared to previous months.

The new death toll comes just a week after provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry issued an order allowing registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe safer drugs as a way to curb the use of illicit drugs.

READ MORE: Some B.C. nurses given green light to prescribe safe drugs amid overdose spike


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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