Overdose deaths in B.C. and Interior on track to hit record high this year

ODs on track to record high

In the first 10 months of this year, 216 people in B.C.'s Interior have died from illicit drug overdoses, putting 2020 on track to be the worst year ever for overdose deaths in the region.

Of the 162 illicit drug overdose deaths across B.C. in October, 33 came from the Interior Health region. There have been 1,386 overdose deaths province-wide this year.

“This is the fifth month this year with more than 160 suspected illicit drug deaths reported to the BC Coroners Service and more than double the number of people who died as a result of a toxic drug supply in October 2019," said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province.”

Locally, the number of overdose deaths are increasing. Seven more people in Kelowna died from overdose in October, accounting for 15 per cent of the 45 total deaths this year.

Vernon had five more deaths last month, making up 24 per cent of the city's 21 deaths this year, while Kamloops saw seven new deaths, 14 per cent of its 50 overdose deaths in 2020.

Overdose deaths across the entire Interior Health region peaked in 2017, when 246 people died from illicit drugs. If similar numbers of deaths continue in the region this year, total deaths could exceed 260 by the end of 2020. Province-wide, overdose deaths are also on track to reach a record high by the end of 2020. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the overdose crisis in B.C.," said Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer. "Exacerbating this is the highly toxic drug supply that exists in our communities right now. This latest report shows the tragic impact this crisis is having on British Columbians, and this is a problem for all of us. Now more than ever, we must remove the stigma of drug use and remove the shame people feel, which keeps them from seeking help or telling friends and family."

In the past three years, 87 per cent of all overdose deaths in the province have involved fentanyl or fentanyl analogues, while 49.5 per cent have involved cocaine.

This year, 55.2 per cent of all overdose deaths have occurred inside a home, while another 25.8 per cent have occurred inside some other residence. Just 14.9 per cent of overdose deaths occurred outside. To date, no deaths have occurred at any supervised consumption site or overdose prevention site in B.C.

Men have accounted for 80 per cent of the deaths in 2020, while 70 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 59.

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