The BC Coroner’s Service released new numbers on illicit drug deaths in the province this week.
Illicit drugs include street drugs, such as heroin, cocaine and MDMA, as well as medications that were not prescribed to the person who took them. It also includes deaths where multiple drugs were detected and others where the drugs taken were not known.
The numbers are alarming. There were 308 apparent overdose deaths in the first four months of 2016 – a 75% increase over the same time last year.
On average, more than 61 people have died from overdoses each month in 2016. In 2015, that number was just over 40.
Fentanyl is becoming an increasingly deadly part of the illicit drug scene in BC. In 2012, the powerful opioid was detected in just 5% of overdose deaths. This year, the number has climbed to nearly 56%.
Northern BC has escaped the worst of the fentanyl crisis so far. There have been 11 fentanyl-related deaths in the region this year. Six of those fatalities were in Fort St. John; three were in Prince George. The highest number of fentanyl deaths happened in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island – 38 in each area.
January 2016 was the deadliest month for overdoses in BC in the last decade. 77 people lost their lives.
56% of overdose deaths occur in people aged 20-39. In 2015, men were nearly 4 times more likely than women to die of an overdose. So far in 2016, nearly 5 times more men than women have died.
Northern BC saw 20 drug related fatalities by April 30, 2016. That number is down slightly from last year, when 28 people died from overdoses in the same period.
Prince George had six overdose deaths in the first four months of this year. In other northern municipalities, Fort St. John and Prince Rupert have had five fatal overdoses, Terrace two and Dawson Creek one.