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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, updates British Columbians about COVID-19 at a press conference earlier this week. (B.C. Government image)
B.C.’s 1st case of COVID-19 confirmed a year ago today

Here’s a look at some of the key dates in the province’s fight against the novel coronavirus

Toronto’s Mass Vaccination Clinic is shown on Sunday January 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Interior Health reports 2 more deaths, 83 new COVID-19 cases

Health authority also identifies new virus cluster in Fernie

Columbia Basin Trust is asking residents across the region to test their internet speeds so the Trust can better identify which areas aren’t meeting service expectations. (Columbia Basin Trust file)
Columbia Basin Trust asks residents to test internet speeds

Several communities across the Basin region, including Moyie, are asked to take the test

South Columbia Search and Rescue called in the Nelson Search and Rescue and Kootenay Valley Helicopters to provide a long line rescue. Photo: BCSAR submitted.
Long-line rescue needed for injured hiker near Trail

Members of South Columbia and Nelson SAR and Kootenay Valley Helicopters did a long-line evacuation

British Columbia Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry addresses the media during a news conference at the BC Centre of Disease Control in Vancouver B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
B.C. announces 485 new COVID-19 cases, fewest deaths in months

‘The actions we take may seem small, but will have a big impact to stop the virus,” urges Dr. Henry

We’ve got ambitious goals for this year’s garden, which means a lot of planning and organizing over the coming weeks. (Corey Bullock file)
Farm Life: The seeds of tomorrow

Time to plan for the growing season

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple accused of flying to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine to appear in court

If convicted, the pair could serve up to six months in jail

Grad student Marisa Harrington and her supervisor Lynneth Stuart-Hill say preliminary results from a study into the affects of stress on hospital nurses show an impact on sleep and heart variability. (Courtesy of Marisa Harrington)
University of Victoria study shows stress impact on B.C. nurses

Stress may be impacting sleep, heart health of hospital nurses in Victoria region

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Vancouver Island woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny rescue operation

Amy McLaughlin has rescued more than 400 bunnies, pushing for the capacity to help more

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Search called off for small plane that went down in rough water south of Victoria

Plane bound for Port Angeles from Alaska believed to have one occupant, an Alaskan pilot

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

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Royal B.C. Museum conservator Megan Doxsey-Whitfield kneels next to a carved stone pillar believed to have significance as a First Nations cultural marker by local Indigenous people. The pillar was discovered on the beach at Dallas Road last summer. Museum curatorial staff have been working with Songhees and Esquimalt Nation representatives to gain a clearer picture of its use. (Photo courtesy Royal BC Museum)
Stone carving found on Victoria beach confirmed Indigenous ritual pillar

Discussion underway with the Esquimalt and Songhees about suitable final home for the artifact

Most Read