OD deaths climb in Valley

Deaths from illicit drug overdoses in Kelowna and Vernon continue to climb despite efforts to protect users. Across the province, more than 1,000 people have died from ODs this year, with fentanyl the leading cause.

New data from the BC Coroners Service shows Kelowna in the top four cities in B.C. for illicit drug overdose deaths with 60 reported between Jan. 1-Aug. 31, compared to 47 OD deaths last year.

Numbers for other cities during that time period include:

  • Vancouver 255
  • Surrey 123
  • Victoria 65
  • Kamloops 32
  • Prince George 16

In Vernon, 16 overdose fatalities were reported in that time period, compared to 12 last year.

A concerted effort has been made over the past two years to distribute naloxone kits to hospitals and clinics, social service groups and emergency workers and among users in order to reverse the effects of an overdose. However numbers show that the efforts have not been enough to stem the increase in fatalities.

“Illicit fentanyl-detected deaths appear to account for the increase in illicit drug overdose deaths since 2012,” said the coroner's report.

Fentanyl was detected, alone or in combination with other drugs, in approximately 67 per cent of OD deaths in 2016 but has climbed to 81 per cent this year.

Across the province, 823 OD deaths with fentanyl detected occurred between January and August this year, a 151 per cent increase compared to last year. In August alone, 113 people died of suspected drug overdoses.

A high percentage of those who died were between the ages of 19-59, with males accounting for 82 per cent of all suspected illicit drug overdose deaths.

“Rates of illicit drug overdose deaths are highest in Vancouver, Okanagan, Fraser East, Central Vancouver Island and North Vancouver Island Health Services delivery areas.”

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