A bit of good news on the opioid crisis in B.C.: September saw the lowest number of overdose deaths recorded in any month of 2017.
According to the B.C. Coroners Service, 80 people died of illicit drug overdoses that month. That’s 28 fewer than in July, the second lowest month this year. It reflects a downward trend in fatalities since June.
However, 61 per cent more people died September 2017 compared to the same month last year.
Slightly more than 1,100 people have died of overdoses in B.C. in 2017, almost 500 more than at this time last year.
Fentanyl continues to kill
The coroner links the increased fatality rate to an increase in fentanyl, which was present in more than four-fifths of all deaths this year. That’s up from two-thirds in 2016.
Fentanyl, the painkiller that’s 50 to 100 times stronger than morphine, continued to be detected in more than four-fifths of those fatal overdoses, while the even more powerful carfentanil was detected in 37 deaths so far between June and September.
Police forces across B.C. have remarked that they now expect fentanyl to be found during drug busts, whereas several years ago it was a rarity.
The amount of fentanyl shipped into B.C. has increased dramatically compared to last year.
According to the Canadian Border Security Agency, the amount of fentanyl seized has increased by 70 per cent to almost 3,000 grams.
Breaking down the stats
Four-fifths of those who died were men and almost three out of five were between the ages of 30 and 59.
Vancouver Coastal Health continued to have the highest rate of overdose-related deaths and that rate has grown by 60 per cent since last year – the largest increase across all health authorities.
As the most populated health authority, Fraser Health had the highest overall number of overdoses – 364 compared to Vancouver Coastal Health’s 334 – but the second lowest rate of overdose deaths province-wide.
Together, the two health authorities accounted for 63 per cent of the overdose deaths so far this year.
Nine out of 10 overdose deaths occurred inside and just under two-thirds of those occurred in private residences.
There were no deaths at supervised consumption sites.
The coroners’ statistics found more fatal overdoses happened on Wednesdays and Fridays, the days after income assistance was paid out.