Updated: Nov 19, 2021
Reports of overdose deaths are not new, neither are news items telling of alarming increases in the number of illicit toxic drug victims.
According to front line medical staff, despite health authorities' efforts the toxic drug death toll continues to increase exponentially.
New data for the first half of 2021 was released by the BC Coroners Service. It paints a picture of how British Columbia's attempts have failed to reverse the upward trend of death from illicit drug overdoses.
Ten years ago overdose deaths for those 19-49 hovered around 12 deaths per 100,000, a little lower for 60-69 at 8 deaths per 100,000.
For those aged 70-79 and pre 19, the numbers barely registered at 0 and .4 per 100,000.
Jump ahead to the present. From January to the end of June there were 1,011 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths. That's the highest ever recorded for the first six months of a calendar year. It's a 34% increase over the same time last year.
The majority of victims, 80 percent, are male. That is an increase from 72 percent in 2011
We are a little more than halfway through 2021 and the number of per capita Drug Deaths continues to climb.
Readers are reminded the numbers for 2021 are still incomplete.
(PC= Per capita 100,000)
- Pre 19 age group: 4 OD deaths recorded 2011 (0.4% PC), 18 in 2020 (1.9 PC), 15 deaths in first half of 2021 (3.2 PC).
- 70 plus age group: 0 OD deaths in 2011 (0.0 PC), 16 in 2020 (3.7 PC), 13 ODs in 2021 (5.7 PC) so far
- 19-29 age group: 75 OD deaths 2011 (11.1 PC), 307 2020 (40.5 PC), 143 in 2021 (37.6 PC) so far.
- 30-39 age group: 75 ODs 2011 (12.6 PC), 407 ODs 2020 (55.4 PC) , 209 in 2021 (63.5 PC) so far.
- 40-49 age group: 77 deaths in 2011 (11.4 PC), 405 in 2020 (62.7 PC), 209 in 2021 (64.5 PC)
- 50- 59 age group: 54 in 2011 (8.0 PC). 393 in 2020 (54.7 PC). 267 first half of 2021 (75.0 PC).
- 60-69 age group: 10 in 2011 (2.0 PC), 187 in 2020 (27.8 PC), 126 so far in 2021 (36.7 PC).
Over 90% of OD deaths occurred in a residence, private or otherwise... No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site.
(2021 rates should be interpreted with caution due to small numbers)
Chief Coroner of BC, Lisa Lapointe, had this to say about the 1,011 drug toxicity deaths so far this 2021,
"Today is International Overdose Awareness Day, a day in which we remember and mourn the family members, friends and neighbours we've lost to drug toxicity"... " I extend my heartfelt condolences..." "those who died mattered and their loss is felt deeply, and we must continue to urge those in positions of influence across our province and the country to move to urgently implement measures to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death".
"The data released today highlights the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a wide-scale response. This includes removing barriers to safe supply, ensuring timely access to evidence-based affordable treatment and providing those experiencing problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce risks and save lives".
Drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in B.C. for those aged 19 to 39 and is second in terms of reducing total potential years of life.
As in previous months, the illicit drug supply in B.C. is increasingly toxic. Extreme fentanyl concentrations and carfentanil are showing up more frequently in toxicology testing. Post-mortem testing shows that fentanyl continues to be the substance involved in most drug-toxicity deaths in the first six months of 2021. Cocaine, methamphetamine and etizolam are also present in significant numbers of deaths.
According to the health authority the highest number of illicit drug-toxicity deaths were in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health, 342 and 283 deaths, making up 62% of all such deaths during this period.
The highest rates of death were in Vancouver Coastal Health (46 PC) and Northern Health (45 PC). Overall, the rate in B.C. is 39 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
35 year Veteran Advanced Care Paramedic and Paramedic Specialist
Brian Twaites is quoted as saying
"Paramedics across B.C. have been responding to an exponential increase in overdoses this
year, and there appears no end in sight to this health crisis"
In June 2021, there were 159 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths. This is the second largest number of suspected deaths ever recorded in the month of June. June 2020 had 185 deaths.
British Columbia has about 5.3 toxic drug deaths per day. In 2021 the highest numbers were in Vancouver Coastal Health (46 PC) and Northern Health (45 PC). Overall the rate in BC is 39 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2021.
Looking around the province, in 2021, the highest rates were in Merritt, Powell River,
Enderby, Peace River South, and Hope.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
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