Toxic drug supply claims more lives in the Interior

175 overdose deaths in July

B.C. recorded another 175 overdose deaths in July, bringing the total number of lives lost this year to 909.

In the Interior, Kamloops had another seven deaths last month, according to the latest report from the BC Coroners Service. The overdose crisis has claimed 32 lives in the Tournament Capital during the first seven months of 2020. For comparison, there were 26 overdose deaths in Kamloops for all of 2019. The River City was the fifth township with the highest number of deaths, trailing behind Kelowna, Victoria, Surrey and Vancouver. 

In the Thompson-Cariboo area, there have been 56 overdose deaths in 2020.

Meanwhile, Kelowna recorded 33 illicit drug toxicity deaths from January to July of this year.

The report shows illicit drug overdose deaths in each of the six B.C. health authorities is either at or near its highest monthly total ever recorded, averaging approximately 5.6 deaths per day province wide.

Last month was the third consecutive month with more than 170 deaths, says Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, noting the number of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply continues to surpass deaths due to homicide, motor vehicle incidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined. 

"My heart and my condolences go out to every family member, every mother, every father, every brother, sister, friend who has lost somebody," Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, said during Tuesday morning's press conference, holding back tears.

She said it's "dismaying" to know that all of the work the province has done around responding to COVID-19 has been a contributing factor to the number of overdose deaths. 

"We know the toxicity of the drug supply is extreme. We see that in the results from the coroners service. I implore anybody who's using drugs right now, do not do it alone," Henry said.

Once again, post-mortem toxicology testing data published in the report suggests an increase in the number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations (exceeding 50 micrograms per litre) in April, May, June and July 2020 compared with previous months.

Jon Deakin, paramedic practice leader with BC Emergency Health Services, said paramedics responded to more than 2,700 overdoses in July, or about one every 16 minutes.

"That's an average of 87 overdoses every 24 hours. This was the highest number of overdoses that BC Emergency Health Services has recorded since the overdose crisis was officially declared in 2016," he told reporters. "Although the highest number of overdoses we're responding to tend to be in larger metropolitan areas, every community throughout British Columbia is affected by the opioid crisis."

British Columbia is on pace to have the highest number of overdose deaths in a single year. 2017 holds the record, with 956 deaths. Last year, 618 individuals died of an overdose.

You can read the full report here.

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