A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; B.C. drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The illicit drug crisis continued in B.C this October with five people dying every day and more deaths linked to “extreme concentrations” of the deadly drug fentanyl.

In data released Wednesday (Nov. 25), the BC Coroners Service said 162 people died in October, making it the fifth month where this year where overdose deaths topped 160. Deaths had decreased slightly in the two months prior, but rose again to make October the fourth most fatal month in 2020. So far this year, 1,386 people have died due to illicit drug overdoses in B.C.

The death toll last month is a 116 per cent increase over overdose deaths last October, and a 26 per cent increase over September deaths. Officials have said that the side affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as isolation and border restrictions, have led to a more toxic drug supply and more people using alone.

READ MORE: B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the overdose crisis in B.C.,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Exacerbating this is the highly toxic drug supply that exists in our communities right now.

More than 80 per cent of deaths take place inside. No deaths thus far have occurred at supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites.

The coroners service noted that while toxicology reports continue to show that the proportion of illicit drug toxicity deaths for which illicit fentanyl was detected continue to be down slightly in 2020, with 83 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2019, the concentration has increased.

“Post-mortem toxicology results suggest that there has been a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations in April to October 2020 compared with previous months,” the report stated. Extreme concentrations are defined as greater than 50ug/L (micrograms/litre). From April to October, 14 per cent of fatal overdoses showed extreme fentanyl concentration, compared to eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

Men continue to make up the vast majority of drug deaths, making up 80 per cent of fatalities this year so far. Seventy per cent of deaths were people between the ages of 30 and 59.

With the new data, the per-capita rate of illicit drug deaths has risen to a record 32.4 per 100,000. In the worst year prior, 2018, it was 31 per 100,000. The highest per-capita deaths were in Northern Health at 44 per 100,000 and in Vancouver Coastal at 38 per 100,000.

The highest number of overdose deaths this year took place in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health at 447 and 379, respectively. The lowest rate was in Fraser Health, B.C.’s most populous health authority, at 28 per 100,000.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisisopioidsoverdose

Just Posted

letter
LETTER: Castlegar reader calls for stop to inter-provincial travel

Rod Retzlaff calls on political leaders for change

New COVID-19 cases from May 2 to 8. Map: BC Centre for Disease Control
Four new COVID cases in Castlegar last week

Cases continue to decline in West Kootenay

North Okanagan business Hytec Kohler set up a COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Spallumcheen plant Friday, May 14. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
More than half of eligible adults in Interior Health vaccinated

Over 365,000 vaccine doses have been administered throughout the Interior Health region

New Border Bruins owner Dr. Mark Szynkaruk reps team colours with his young sons and wife Tracey. Photo courtesy of the Grand Forks Border Bruins
KIJHL’s Border Bruins sold to Grand Forks doctor

The league announced the sale Friday, May 14

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

On Friday, May 14 at Meadow Gardens Golf Club in Pitt Meadows, Michael Caan joined a very elite club of golfers who have shot under 60 (Instagram)
Crowds at English Bay were blasted with a large beam of light from an RCMP Air-1 helicopter on Friday, May 14. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marc Grandmaison
Police enlist RCMP helicopter to disperse thousands crowded on Vancouver beach

On Friday night, police were witness to ‘several thousand people staying well into the evening’

People shop in Chinatown in Vancouver on Friday, February 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver community leaders call for action following 717% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes

‘The alarming rise of anti-Asian hate in Canada and south of the border shows Asians have not been fully accepted in North America,’ says Carol Lee

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sinikka Gay Elliott was reported missing on Salt Spring Island on Wednesday, May 12. (Courtesty Salt Spring RCMP)
Body of UBC professor found on Salt Spring Island, no foul play suspected

Sinikka Elliott taught sociology at the university

The first Black judge named to the BC Supreme Court, Selwyn Romilly, was handcuffed at 9:15 a.m. May 14 while walking along the seawall. (YouTube/Screen grab)
Police apologize after wrongly arresting B.C.’s first Black Supreme Court Justice

At 81 years old, the retired judge was handcuffed in public while out for a walk Friday morning

Dr. Steve Beerman, of Nanaimo, shows off his Dr. David Bishop Gold Medal, awarded for distinguished medical service. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Queen presents Vancouver Island doctor with award for global drowning prevention

Dr. Steve Beerman receives Royal Life Saving Society’s King Edward VII Cup at virtual ceremony

Tim Miller is selling his 76-foot steel bridge from his property in Burton, B.C. The bridge originates from the railway in Revelstoke. (Contributed)
For sale: a 100-ton 19th century bridge by Arrow Lakes

Bridge is in Burton, B.C. and advertised for $40,000

Most Read