Drug overdose deaths in Kamloops, Kelowna continue to rise at unprecedented rate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Drug overdose deaths in Kamloops, Kelowna continue to rise at unprecedented rate

Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/BC Livestream
June 01, 2021 - 1:00 PM

Illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. continue to rise at an unprecedented rate.

In the first four months of 2021, 680 people in B.C. died from toxic illicit drugs, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

Of those, 106 lived within the Interior Health region. In the same timeframe last year, the death toll within Interior Health was 44.   

While the B.C. Coroner’s Service report doesn’t specify all the areas where drug deaths occurred, it lists “top townships of injury” and to date, that indicates there were 18 deaths in Kelowna and 19 in Kamloops.  For all of 2020 there were 62 illicit drug deaths in Kelowna and 60 in Kamloops.

"Once again, we're reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented," Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner said in a statement.

"I offer my heartfelt condolences to every family in the province that is experiencing the unimaginable pain of sudden and unexpected loss. Every life lost to toxic drugs in our province is a profound tragedy. Every one of them mattered, and every one of them will be missed."

The 176 lives lost are a record for the month of April and represent a 43% increase over the number of deaths reported in April 2020.

This is the 14th consecutive month in which more than 100 British Columbians have died from suspected illicit drug toxicity and raises the provincial rate of deaths for 2021 to 39.3 per 100,000 residents.

The Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities have accounted for 61% of suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in British Columbia in 2021. However, the health service delivery areas with the highest rates of death are Vancouver, Northeast, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest and North Vancouver Island, evidence that this crisis has impacted nearly every corner of the province.

The toxicity of the drug supply in B.C. has continued to increase. Fentanyl has been detected in 86% of deaths this year, while carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has been found in 62 samples in 2021, almost as many as were detected in all of 2020 (65). The reporting notes a continued increase in the presence of benzodiazepines, which were detected in 57% of samples in April, almost four times the amount reported in July 2020 (15%).

"These latest numbers emphasize the toxicity of the illicit drug supply in B.C.," Lapointe said.

"We know that substance use disorder is a complex health issue, and those experiencing it need meaningful and compassionate services and supports. Far too often, we hear from families who have lost a loved one that no help was available despite desperate searches over months or years. It is critical that harm reduction services, including safe supply, are accessible where and when people need them, and that recovery services are evidence based and accountable."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Kathy Michaels or call 250-718-0428 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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