B.C.’s drug overdose death toll climbs to 488

Fraser region accounts for most deaths so far this year, province deregulates naloxone

Fentanyl pills seized by police.

The drug overdose crisis has claimed 488 lives in B.C. in the first eight months of the year up until the end of August, according to new statistics released by the B.C. Coroners Service.

The number of deaths from opioid overdoses was down slightly from 55 in July to 49 in August, and is well off the peak of 81 in January.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe noted for the first time this year, the deaths in August were down from the same month in 2015.

“Without the work that has been done to increase the availability of this antidote to opioid overdoses, I fear we would have seen many more deaths,” Lapointe said. “But no one should ever assume that the presence of naloxone at a scene will automatically mean a good outcome.”

The Fraser Health region accounted for 172 illicit drug overdose deaths from January through August, or 35 per cent of the provincial total.

There were 113 drug deaths in Vancouver Coastal, 93 on Vancouver Island, 80 in the Interior and 30 in the Northern health region.

The largest numbers of deaths by city have been in Vancouver (96 so far in 2016), Surrey (62), Victoria (39), Kelowna (27), Abbotsford and Kamloops (at 23 each), Maple Ridge and Nanaimo (20 each), and Langley (19).

The 488 deaths in total in B.C. so far is up 62 per cent from the same period of 2015.

The biggest increase in the rate of deaths occurred on Vancouver Island, where there was a 135 per cent increase. Vancouver Island also had the highest rate of deaths as a proportion of the population – 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people so far this year.

The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was detected in more than 60 per cent of deaths this year, twice the rate of 2015.

There have been an average of 37 fentanyl-linked overdose deaths per month this year.

The most common drug overdose combination has been cocaine mixed with fentanyl, officials said.

A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July.

In the latest move, the health ministry approved a request to deregulate and unschedule naloxone, allowing the life-saving overdose treatment to be sold at more locations.

Work continues to try to block fentanyl production and distribution, increase harm-reduction options and increase the number of addiction recovery beds.

More than 2,100 no-charge take-home naloxone kits have been used to reverse overdoses out of more than 13,700 distributed.

Posters and now videos are being released to make recreational drug users more aware of the risks they face.

A new video features Leslie McBain, founder of support group Moms Stop the Harm, who lost her son Jordan to an overdose.

“It can happen to anyone’s child,” said McBain. “Education and awareness are at present the best tools we have for reducing drug harms including death.”

Vancouver Coastal Health is applying to Health Canada to add more safe consumption sites in the region.

Health officials in B.C. have complained the federal process for approving new harm reduction sites has been too onerous and slow since new legislation restricting them was passed by the former Conservative government in 2015.

Just Posted

Work continues to deal with flooding

Increased efforts to mitigate flooding at Sportsmens Bowl and downstream

Reel Reviews: Parlour games or video games

We say, “Rampage is silly fun and Truth or Dare is just silly”

Look back to simpler summers

Rotary honourees reminisce about South Okanagan summers

Okanagan-Similkameen freshet looms large: district

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen says property owners have window to prepare for flooding

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Low fog creates stunning views near Sicamous

Motorists on the highway between Salmon Arm and Sicamous were treated to spectacular scenery.

Dix says B.C. remains focused on fighting youth overdoses in wake of teen’s death

Elliot Eurchuk’s parents say he died at his Oak Bay home after taking street drugs

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

Penticton students tackle dark themes in Oliver

Penticton Secondary School’s theatre program brings to the stage Oliver

Kamloops RCMP respond to report of dead body floating in Thompson River

Body has not been located, searches to continue as river conditions improve

Most Read