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Northern Health’s drug toxicity death rate tops among health authorities for third straight month

Just over five people a day on average lost their lives to an illicit drug overdose in BC during March.

According to data released by the Coroners Service this morning (Tuesday), 165 people passed away from a suspected overdose – a 5% drop from February (174).

Northern Health saw eight illicit drug deaths in March with two of those in Prince George.

So far this year, our health authority has seen 40 fatalities with 18 of them recorded in the northern capital.

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PG has the seventh-highest number of overdose deaths by city, trailing Vancouver (137), Surrey (56), Victoria (31), Abbotsford (26), Kamloops (25), and Burnaby (19).

Furthermore, Northern Health has the highest drug toxicity death rate among all the health authorities at 52.3 per 100,000 people.

However, on a more positive note, the rate has dropped by 10 points since February.

Since January of 2021, NH documented 188 substance-related deaths equating to 12.5 per month – outpacing the city of Victoria, which has only seen 158 fatalities over the same time period.
In terms of Health Service Delivery Area, the Northern Interior, which includes PG-Quesnel-Burns Lake and the Robson Valley has the fourth-highest drug toxicity death rate at 56.8– only Vancouver (75.0) and Thompson Cariboo (73.7) and Fraser East (64.3) ranked higher.

The Coroners Service noted that 77% of those dying so far in 2022 are between the ages of 30 and 59.

Between July 2020 and March 2022, etizolam was found in 40% of illicit drug toxicity deaths. It is a benzodiazepine analogue and non-opioid sedative that does not respond to naloxone, which creates life-saving challenges for first responders.

So far this year, 548 people have passed away province-wide. BC posted a record 2,232 drug overdose deaths in 2021.

No fatalities were reported at supervised consumption or drug prevention site.

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