February illicit drug death numbers

The number of illicit drug deaths in BC decreased slightly

VICTORIA — The number of illicit drug deaths in BC decreased slightly for the second month in a row but is still far higher than for the same period last year.

Provisional data from the BC Coroners Service shows that a total of 102 persons died as a result of illicit drug use during the month of February, an average of more than seven deaths every two days. In contrast, there were 59 illicit drug-related deaths in February 2016.

Individuals aged 30-39 and 40-49 years have accounted for the largest percentage of illicit drug overdose deaths during the first two months of 2017. Consistent with last year’s data, males accounted for 83.1% of these suspected illicit drug overdose deaths.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe continued to urge extreme vigilance by those using illicit substances: “While I’m very relieved to see that the numbers have not continued to increase over the last two months, we are still losing cherished members of our communities at a terrible rate. People are dying in far higher numbers than we’ve ever seen, and a slight decrease in fatalities from the previous month should not be seen as any indication that the risk has decreased.”

Lapointe also noted that 89% of illicit drug overdose deaths occurred inside (the majority in private residences) and that there have been no deaths at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site, “This is evidence that these sites are saving lives. People need to be encouraged to visit these sites as the majority of deaths are occurring when people use illicit substances without medical attention or assistance nearby.”

The BC Coroners Service continues to work with the B.C. government’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Response and with health, community and law enforcement agencies to try to reduce this death toll.

– Information bulletin from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General and the BC Coroners Service