VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – The BC Coroners Service says there have been 1,103 suspected drug overdose deaths from January to the end of September this year.
That’s almost double the number of fatal overdoses compared to the first nine months of 2016.
Fentanyl was detected in more than 900 of those cases, which is an increase of 147 per cent over the same period last year.
“That’s a significant increase that we’re seeing,” says Andy Watson with the BC Coroners Service.
“We’re seeing fentanyl detected either in isolation or in combination with other drugs, primarily heroin, methamphetamines, and cocaine. And certainly, from the testing results that we’re getting back from our partners, we’re seeing a lot of mixed drug toxicity. The street drugs that we test include both controlled and illegal drugs… The drug supply is not safe.”
The BC Coroners Service says there were an average of six overdose deaths on each of the first five days after income assistance payments — that’s more than all other days of the month.
The highest rate of illicit drug overdoses deaths is within the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, with 37.8 deaths per 100,000 people. That health authority region also saw the largest increase in rate, with a 59 per cent rise over numbers from 2016.
Most of the people who died of overdoses were men between the ages of 30 and 59.
Nine out of 10 of the deaths happened indoors, including more than half in homes. None of the deaths happened at a supervised consumption site or at a drug overdose prevention site.
“Folks who are using shouldn’t be using alone. Use in the company of somebody who can administer help. Or better yet, if you have the means, go to an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site,” says Watson.
“We realize that there is a stigma potentially associated with using at a public facing site… So, if people are concerned about potentially being seen out in the public, use in the company of somebody who can call 9-1-1 for you or administer naloxone. We know that’s something that works.”