169 British Columbians died from illicit toxic drugs in August, nine from the Okanagan

Local drug deaths drop

After the Okanagan's worst month for illicit drug deaths in July, deaths dropped significantly in August.

Of the 169 drug deaths that occurred in B.C. in August of this year, nine occurred in the Okanagan, while 18 occurred in the Thompson Cariboo region.

Of these, three were in Kelowna, one was in Vernon and 12 were in Kamloops. Province-wide, about 5.5 people are dying from drugs every day in B.C.

The BC Coroners Service released its latest drug death numbers Wednesday, with data current up to the end of August. While drug deaths in the province remained high in August, they decreased by 12% compared to the month prior.

“The illicit drug market continues to pose immense risks to people across our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“People in communities across B.C. are continuing to lose friends, family members and colleagues to the unprecedented toxicity of the unregulated drug supply. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving the loss of a loved one.”

In July of this year, 26 people died from toxic illicit drugs in the Okanagan – the worst month on record for the region. But that number dropped by 65% the following month.

Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria – the largest population centres – were the cities with the highest number of drug deaths in the province in August, while the Health Service Delivery Areas with the highest rates of drug deaths included Vancouver, Northwest, Thompson Cariboo, Northern Interior, and Fraser East.

The presence of benzodiazepines in drugs continues to be a concern, as the drug does not respond to naloxone like opioids will. While 15% of drug samples found in B.C. tested positive for benzodiazepines in July 2020, 52% of samples tested positive for the drug in January of this year. But in August, that number has decreased down to 22%.

Broken down by municipality, 54 people in Kelowna, 62 in Kamloops and 28 in Vernon have been killed by toxic drugs in Kelowna this year. Data is not available for Penticton.

On Saturday, five people died from suspected illicit drug poisoning in Kelowna and West Kelowna, prompting a warning from the RCMP.

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