Illicit drug overdoses decrease in the Interior Health Authority for second month - InfoNews

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Illicit drug overdoses decrease in the Interior Health Authority for second month

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March 17, 2017 - 11:20 AM

KAMLOOPS - New statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service show the number of people dying from illicit drug overdoses has decreased regionally and provincially two months in a row.

After a spike in December, fatalities due to overdoses in the Interior Health Authority are half what they were two months ago, but still significantly higher than a year ago, according to a media release from the Coroners Service.

In the health authority’s region, 15 people died in February 2017; provincially 102 people lost their lives.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says it’s a relief the number of deaths is down, but warns illicit drug users to remain extremely vigilant.

“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 says in the release.

The year-to-date statistics show the decrease hasn't happened in Kelowna, which is one of the top three communities where overdoses are happening behind only Vancouver and Surrey. There have been 17 deaths in Kelowna to date, with nine in February, accounting for more than half of the deaths in the Interior Health Authority this year.

In Kamloops, there were only two deaths in February related to overdoses, bringing the city’s total up to seven in 2017. Vernon only recorded one last month, the same as the month before.

Regionally the death rate in the Interior Health Authority region is one of the highest in the province, second only to the Vancouver region.

Provincially, it appears the idea that overdoses occur on Wednesdays when welfare cheques are distributed has been disproven as overdose deaths are nearly equally distributed on all days of the wee, the Coroners Service report says. Additionally, the vast majority are happening in private residences with relatively few few in outdoors.

The Coroners Service also notes that over 2015 and 2016, cocaine was the most common drug found in overdose deaths, found in nearly 50 per cent of cases. Fentanyl was the second most common, followed by heroin. In many cases multiple drugs were found in an individuals, with fentanyl found in cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Carfentanil, a drug related to fentanyl but much more powerful was recently confirmed in the Interior Health Authority.

The report also points out a correlation between the increase in fentanyl and overdose deaths. The number of overdose deaths in B.C. that don’t include fentanyl has remained stable since 2011.

No deaths were recorded at supervised consumption services or overdose prevention sites. Lapointe says this show the sites are working.

Kamloops and Kelowna each have two overdoes prevention sites and are applying for mobile supervised consumption services. In Kamloops, ASK Wellness reported to council earlier this week there've been almost 2,400 interactions at the two overdose prevention sites since they opened in December, with nine overdoses reveresed.

“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,” Lapointe says.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 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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