BC Coroners Service reports increase in illicit drug toxicity deaths

Overdose figures surge

New reports by the BC Coroners Service reveal illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province during March and April have surged.

There were 117 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths recorded in the province during April 2020, representing a 39 per cent increase over the number of deaths in April 2019 (84).  

In March 2020, 112 people died of overdoses, marking the first time B.C. has recorded over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths in back-to-back months since November and December 2018. 

Overdose deaths in Kelowna during the first four months of this year (18) have already surpassed the halfway mark for 2019 records, which show a total of 33 deaths over the course of the year.

A similar trend can be seen in Kamloops, which recorded a total of 27 overdose deaths in 2019, but was already up to 18 by the end of April. 

In total, there have been 382 illicit drug deaths to date in 2020 in B.C. The majority of those occurred inside (83 per cent) and 71 per cent of those who died were aged 19 to 49. An average of 3.2 people are dying per day of drug overdose in B.C.

Of the 382 deaths, males accounted for 79 per cent of deaths - an increase from 2019 figures. 

Interior Health Authority had the third highest number (50) of illicit drug toxicity deaths with fentanyl detected in 2020 so far, behind Vancouver Coastal Health (76) and Fraser Health Authority (83). 

BC Coroners Service chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says all of B.C. is being impacted by the ongoing crisis, and the province continues to work towards lowering these numbers. 

"We remain in a public health emergency, with more than three British Columbians dying each day from illicit drug toxicity deaths. Illicit drug toxicity death rates in B.C. are still the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada. Every region in B.C. has been impacted.

"Recent efforts to improve access to safe supply in B.C. are encouraging, and the BC Coroners Service supports continued enhancement of this critical life-saving measure. We continue to recommend a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system as an important pillar in preventing future deaths.

"The BC Coroners Service continues to work with our partners to collaboratively share information to better understand the situation."

No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

The Provincial Health Services Authority launched a new Lifeguard app to help prevent overdoses last week

Click here to read the Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC report or the Fentanyl-Detected Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths report. 

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