B.C. sees slight decrease in deaths from poisoned illicit drug supply | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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B.C. sees slight decrease in deaths from poisoned illicit drug supply

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK

The number of overdose deaths in the province has decreased compared to the same time last year, as well as the previous month, but Merritt continues to see some of the highest death rates.

This year, by local health area, the highest rates of death have been in Lillooet, Mission, Cariboo/Chilcotin, Merritt and Alberni/Clayoquot, according to the latest data released from the B.C. Coroners Service

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The total of 161 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths represents a 13% decrease from the number of deaths in April last year (186) and a 2% decrease from the number of deaths occurring in March 2022 (165), according to the report.

"The reality is that every time someone uses drugs purchased from the unregulated market, their life is at risk. Until a safer, regulated supply is widely accessible, I encourage those using drugs to use only in the presence of someone who can provide help and call for medical assistance if that's required. Anyone using illicit substances, whether they are regular or occasional drug users and whether they know their dealer or not, is currently at risk from the unpredictable, unregulated supply," said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, in a press release issued today, June 9.

Earlier this month, B.C.'s request to allow residents to possess small amounts of some illicit drugs was approved by Health Canada. Decriminalization in B.C. means charges will not be laid against anyone 18 or older possessing up to 2.5 grams of opioids, cocaine, methamphetamine or MDMA, also known as ecstasy, for three years, starting Jan. 31, 2023.

Most overdose deaths, 84%, occurred inside private residences with 27% occurring inside social and supportive housing while 14% occurred in vehicles, sidewalks, streets and parks.

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Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria have the highest number of overdose deaths of any community in B.C. Kamloops has the fifth highest number of deaths, with 32 being reported this year. Kelowna had 24 and Vernon reported 11. The Okanagan and Thompson Cariboo regions also have the same number of overdose deaths for 2022, each reporting 52 thus far.

The Vancouver and Fraser Health Authorities continue to have the greatest number of overdose deaths out of any health authority.

A review of completed cases from 2019 to 2022 indicates the top four detected drugs relevant to illicit drug toxicity deaths were fentanyl (86%), cocaine (45%), methamphetamine/amphetamine (41%), and other opioids (23%).

There is no indication that the prescribed safe supply is contributing to overdose deaths. No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites, according to the report.

In 2022, 84% of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred inside in private residences, 27% occurred in other residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels and other indoor locations and 14% occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets and parks.

Men have historically accounted for nearly 80% of illicit drug-related deaths, but more than 26% of those who died in April were women, continuing a shifting trend that began earlier in the year, according to the report.

Similarly, while the median age of decedents between March 2020 and February 2022 was 44, the number of deaths in older age categories continues to increase, as 38% of decedents in 2022 were at least 50.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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