New data from the BC Coroners Service today show ore than 1,400 British Columbians died due to suspected illicit drug overdoses in 2017.
Preliminary data indicate there were 1,422 suspected drug overdose deaths in 2017, representing a 43% increase from 2016, when there were 993 overdose deaths.
There were significantly fewer deaths, however, in the last four months of 2017 (average of 96.5 deaths per month from September to December) compared with the first eight months of the year (average of 129.5 deaths per month).
“By continuing to provide timely, accurate data to the public, and policy- and decision-makers throughout the province, we’re able to support evidence-based measures to keep British Columbians safer when it comes to substance use,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “There is no question that this is a public-health crisis that is impacting people from all walks of life, and we need to continue to work together to help reduce stigma and increase awareness and support for those at risk.”
According to preliminary data, a total of 103 suspected drug overdose deaths occurred in November 2017, down from 140 in November 2016, and a total of 99 suspected drug overdose deaths occurred in December 2017, down from 164 in December 2016. The 2017 totals will likely increase as additional analysis is completed.
Approximately 81% of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date in 2017 had fentanyl detected, up from 67% in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines. Carfentanil has been detected in 64 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths between June and December of 2017. The majority of deaths continue to occur in private residences.
The report also shows more suspected illicit drug overdose deaths occurred during the five days following income assistance payments than in all other days of the month so far in 2017, with an average of six deaths per day.
Fraser Health had the highest number at 377 of illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected in 2017, followed by 337 in Vancouver Coastal Health and 200 in the Interior Health region.
Almost nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, including more than half in private residences.