A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A fentanyl test strip is used at Vancouver Coastal Health in Vancouver, Tuesday, January, 21, 2020. The test strips will be made available to drug users to ensure that their drugs are safe and free of Fentanyl. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Drug overdoses lead to 5 deaths each day in October; B.C. drug toxicity continues to increase

COVID-19 crisis continues to exacerbate the overdose crisis

The illicit drug crisis continued in B.C this October with five people dying every day and more deaths linked to “extreme concentrations” of the deadly drug fentanyl.

In data released Wednesday (Nov. 25), the BC Coroners Service said 162 people died in October, making it the fifth month where this year where overdose deaths topped 160. Deaths had decreased slightly in the two months prior, but rose again to make October the fourth most fatal month in 2020. So far this year, 1,386 people have died due to illicit drug overdoses in B.C.

The death toll last month is a 116 per cent increase over overdose deaths last October, and a 26 per cent increase over September deaths. Officials have said that the side affects of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as isolation and border restrictions, have led to a more toxic drug supply and more people using alone.

READ MORE: B.C. records 127 fatal overdoses in September, roughly 4 each day

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating effect on the overdose crisis in B.C.,” said provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. “Exacerbating this is the highly toxic drug supply that exists in our communities right now.

More than 80 per cent of deaths take place inside. No deaths thus far have occurred at supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites.

The coroners service noted that while toxicology reports continue to show that the proportion of illicit drug toxicity deaths for which illicit fentanyl was detected continue to be down slightly in 2020, with 83 per cent compared to 85 per cent in 2019, the concentration has increased.

“Post-mortem toxicology results suggest that there has been a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations in April to October 2020 compared with previous months,” the report stated. Extreme concentrations are defined as greater than 50ug/L (micrograms/litre). From April to October, 14 per cent of fatal overdoses showed extreme fentanyl concentration, compared to eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

Men continue to make up the vast majority of drug deaths, making up 80 per cent of fatalities this year so far. Seventy per cent of deaths were people between the ages of 30 and 59.

With the new data, the per-capita rate of illicit drug deaths has risen to a record 32.4 per 100,000. In the worst year prior, 2018, it was 31 per 100,000. The highest per-capita deaths were in Northern Health at 44 per 100,000 and in Vancouver Coastal at 38 per 100,000.

The highest number of overdose deaths this year took place in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health at 447 and 379, respectively. The lowest rate was in Fraser Health, B.C.’s most populous health authority, at 28 per 100,000.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisisopioidsoverdose

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Heavy flows of water pooled on Davis Road after a lead to a fire hydrant burst on Thursday Jan. 21. (Jim Tredwell photo)
Fire hydrant connection burst at Davis Road and Battie Drive

Crews worked well into the night on Thursday Jan. 21 to staunch the flow of water

A pedestrian was transported to hospital after being struck while crossing Roberts Street. (Cole Schisler photo)
Pedestrian struck crossing Roberts Street

The driver remained on scene and is cooperating with police

Emergency crews were called to a semi-truck crash along the Trans-Canada Highway at Oyster Sto’Lo Road on Friday, Jan. 22. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Semi truck crashes off the side of the highway in Ladysmith

Driver taken to hospital as precaution after single-vehicle crash Friday

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Vancouver Island public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
Another staff member tests positive for COVID-19 at Nanaimo care home

Chartwell Malaspina Care Residence employee is isolating, says Island Health

Actions of Vancouver Island RCMP emergency response team members prevented a potential head-on collision accident on the Trans-Canada Highway on Jan. 19, says Nanaimo RCMP. (News Bulletin file)
Eight cars evade vehicle driving on wrong side of highway, says Nanaimo RCMP

Incident occurred near Trans-Canada Highway-Morden Road intersection earlier this week

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Most Read