British Columbia now on track to record highest overdose death rate ever

Highest-ever overdose rate

British Columbia is now on track to record the highest number of overdose deaths in the province ever, with the substance responsible for at least 80 per cent of them being fentanyl.

With the inclusion of September's statistics in the BC Coroners Service report, the 2020 average to date (133.6 deaths per month) is higher than any year since statistics are available in 2010.

In September this year, just over four people every day lost their lives to overdose in British Columbia, totalling 127 deaths and representing an 112 per cent increase from the number of deaths in Sept. 2019. 

Of the 127 deaths recorded in B.C. this past month, 94 included the detection of fentanyl, and post-mortem toxicology results reveal extreme fentanyl concentrations have recently become more prevalent.

With another three months to be counted in this year's overdose statistics, the Okanagan has already surpassed its 2019 year-end total, recording 84 deaths to date. The 2019 year-end total was 83. 

Kelowna has now recorded 38 overdose deaths in 2020, compared with 33 at the end of 2019, and Vernon 16, compared with 14 at the end of 2019. 

The Thompson-Cariboo region experienced a much more dramatic jump, already counting 71 deaths by Sept. 2020, up from a year-end total of 40 in 2019. 

In Kamloops alone, 43 overdose deaths have been recorded this year, nearly doubling the year-end total of 25 for 2019.

B.C. has now lost 1,202 lives to overdose this year. The Interior Health region accounted for 183 of these deaths, the majority (144) of which involved the detection of fentanyl. 

Males have been disproportionately represented in the records to date, accounting for 80 per cent of overdose deaths in 2020, as have 30-59 year olds who account for 70 per cent of overdose deaths this year.

However, both male and female overdose rates have decreased from the highs seen in May, June and July 2020, including in the Interior Health region.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria have experienced the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths this year.

Many of the overdose deaths (84 per cent) recorded in 2020 across the province have occurred inside, and no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention deaths

For the latest report on illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. (2009-20), click here.

For the latest report on fentanyl detected overdose deaths in B.C (2012-20), click here

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