B.C.’s drug overdose death toll climbs to 488

Fraser region accounts for most deaths so far this year, province deregulates naloxone

Fentanyl pills seized by police.

The drug overdose crisis has claimed 488 lives in B.C. in the first eight months of the year up until the end of August, according to new statistics released by the B.C. Coroners Service.

The number of deaths from opioid overdoses was down slightly from 55 in July to 49 in August, and is well off the peak of 81 in January.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe noted for the first time this year, the deaths in August were down from the same month in 2015.

“Without the work that has been done to increase the availability of this antidote to opioid overdoses, I fear we would have seen many more deaths,” Lapointe said. “But no one should ever assume that the presence of naloxone at a scene will automatically mean a good outcome.”

The Fraser Health region accounted for 172 illicit drug overdose deaths from January through August, or 35 per cent of the provincial total.

There were 113 drug deaths in Vancouver Coastal, 93 on Vancouver Island, 80 in the Interior and 30 in the Northern health region.

The largest numbers of deaths by city have been in Vancouver (96 so far in 2016), Surrey (62), Victoria (39), Kelowna (27), Abbotsford and Kamloops (at 23 each), Maple Ridge and Nanaimo (20 each), and Langley (19).

The 488 deaths in total in B.C. so far is up 62 per cent from the same period of 2015.

The biggest increase in the rate of deaths occurred on Vancouver Island, where there was a 135 per cent increase. Vancouver Island also had the highest rate of deaths as a proportion of the population – 18.1 deaths per 100,000 people so far this year.

The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl was detected in more than 60 per cent of deaths this year, twice the rate of 2015.

There have been an average of 37 fentanyl-linked overdose deaths per month this year.

The most common drug overdose combination has been cocaine mixed with fentanyl, officials said.

A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July.

In the latest move, the health ministry approved a request to deregulate and unschedule naloxone, allowing the life-saving overdose treatment to be sold at more locations.

Work continues to try to block fentanyl production and distribution, increase harm-reduction options and increase the number of addiction recovery beds.

More than 2,100 no-charge take-home naloxone kits have been used to reverse overdoses out of more than 13,700 distributed.

Posters and now videos are being released to make recreational drug users more aware of the risks they face.

A new video features Leslie McBain, founder of support group Moms Stop the Harm, who lost her son Jordan to an overdose.

“It can happen to anyone’s child,” said McBain. “Education and awareness are at present the best tools we have for reducing drug harms including death.”

Vancouver Coastal Health is applying to Health Canada to add more safe consumption sites in the region.

Health officials in B.C. have complained the federal process for approving new harm reduction sites has been too onerous and slow since new legislation restricting them was passed by the former Conservative government in 2015.

Just Posted

Adopted pet pig gets killed and eaten

Animal was adopted out by SPCA staff in the Cowichan Valley

Charge laid in Central Saanich dog cruelty case

Daniel Howard Ruygrok charged after dog found with compound fracture

VicPD officers assaulted by women in two separate incidents

One officer’s injuries required a hospital visit, following downtown fray

Oath of office not needed: North Saanich councillor

District council set to approve oath that had been repealed in 2012

VIDEO: What you need to know today at the B.C. Games

All 19 events are underway across Kamloops, where five to 10 cm of snow is expected to fall

Wounded Warrior Run BC makes it to the Comox Valley

Day four of the annual fundraiser saw the team stop in Courtenay and Comox

Sask. school shooter to be sentenced as adult

The man was just shy of his 18th birthday when he killed four people and injured seven others

Internet questions PM’s fashion choices in India

The Trudeaus’ eight-day visit has been dogged by various controversies since it began Feb. 17

WATCH: Walking from Argentina to Alaska one step at a time

Holly “Cargo” Harrison is in Williams Lake, resting a pulled hamstring before he continues on his 15,000-mile walk to Alaska.

BCHL Today: Merritt Centennials keep moving while Salmon Arm Silverbacks slide

BCHL Today is a (near) daily look at what’s going on around the league and the junior A world.

Former Canuck Roberto Luongo addresses Florida shooting victims

Parkland, Fla., resident, delivers speech before Florida Panthers’ first home game since tragedy

OLYMPIC ROUNDUP: Kelowna skier Kesley Serwa adds to Canada’s gold medals

Despite losses in men’s hockey and curling, Canadian women won medals in ski cross and figure skating

Suspected serial killer targeting Toronto gay community now faces six murder charges

Bruce McArthur now charged with murders of six men: Toronto police

Most Read