2017 deadliest year ever for illicit drug overdose deaths

By Greg Fry
January 31, 2018 - 11:36am Updated: January 31, 2018 - 5:28pm

KAMLOOPS — 2017 was a deadly year for illicit drug overdose deaths in British Columbia.

Preliminary figures reveal 1,422 British Columbians died, according to new data released today by the BC Coroners Service.

That represents a 43 per cent increase from 2016, when 993 individuals died due to overdose deaths.

However, the BC Coroners Service indicated there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon as there were signficantly fewer deaths 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 (an average of 129.5 deaths per month).

In Kamloops, the number of people who died from overdose deaths fell from 44 in 2016 to 39 in 2017. 31 of those deaths were fentanyl-detected in 2017, the same as in 2016.

Province-wide, approximately 81 per cent of the illicit overdose deaths in 2017 detected fentanyl use, up from 67 per cent in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.

"Despite cautious optimism that deaths have not increased in the last four months, we cannot be complacent," said Dr. Patricia Daly, executive director and clinical lead for the B.C. Overdose Emergency Response Centre and chief medical officer for Vancouver Coastal Health. "In 2018, the provincial Overdose Emergency Response Centre will support communities to intensify those strategies we know we can prevent overdose deaths — such as naloxone distribution, drug-checking services and outreach teams to connect people to treatment — and explore innovative strategies to reach those most at risk of death."

Vancouver Coastal Health has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths at 35.9 per 100,000 people. Fraser Health had the highest number (377) of illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected in 2017, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (337) and Interior Health (200).

More than half of the 2017 deaths involved people between the ages of 30 and 49 and approximately four out of five who died were male.

Addtionally, nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors and none occurred at any supervised consumption site or at any other drug overdose prevention sites.

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