BC sees highest number of opioid deaths in May

May saw the highest monthly total of drug overdose deaths ever recorded, with 170 suspected toxic drug deaths in BC that month.

Sam Edwards High Level Alberta

New figures have on drug overdose deaths for the month of May have been released by the British Columbia Coroners Service and they are shockingly high.

May saw the highest monthly total of drug overdose deaths ever recorded, with 170 suspected toxic drug deaths in BC that month. The number of overdose deaths are equivalent to roughly 5.5 deaths every day during May, reports Global News.

This represents a 93 percent increase in overdose deaths from those recorded in May 2019. It also shows an increase of 44 percent when compared to April 2020.

Comparatively, there were 53 recorded coronavirus deaths in the province during the same month.

Vancouver, Victoria and Surrey are the cities with the most opioid deaths.

"It is both sad and deeply frustrating to see the number of illicit drug deaths reach a new high in BC four years after the declaration of a public health emergency," said chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe in a release.

"Despite the many collective efforts directed at this crisis, the toxic drug supply continues to take the lives of our family members, friends and colleagues."

The spike in deaths seems to be linked to an increase in toxicity in the drugs of the drugs that previous levels. The report found a rise in the amount of cases involving high concentrations of fentanyl.

"The number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest monthly total ever recorded," the report said.

"However, Island Health has surpassed its highest number by 36 per cent (38 deaths in May)."

The report also says that people aged 19 to 49 make up 70 percent of the reported deaths. Approximately 67 percent of the deaths recorded in 2019 and 2018 were in the same range.

According to the coroner's service, 56 percent of the fatalities took place in private homes in the month of May, 26 percent happened in separate residences and 15 percent took place outdoors. One percent took place in other locations.

No deaths were recorded at supervised drug overdose prevention or consumption sites.

"We still know that illicit drug toxicity death rates in BC remain the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada, and every region in BC has been impacted," Lapointe said.

"That said, were it not for the dedicated efforts taken to date, the death toll would be higher."

For weeks now, some people have been warning that the coronavirus pandemic would make the opioid crisis worse, due to isolation and increases in mental illness.

The coronavirus crisis has resulted in more calls for BC to provide people who have addictions with clean opioids. Dr. Bonnie Henry, the provincial health officer, called for the use of drugs to be decriminalized last year, though she did not recommend prescription opioids.

A new clinical guidance was recently introduced by the province for prescription opioids that aims to allow drug users easier access to safe drugs.

"The overdose crisis is taking a toll on families and communities across this province, and we know the second public health emergency of COVID-19 is adding additional challenges," said Henry on Thursday.

"There is no simple solution, but we remain committed to doing all we can to support people who use drugs, as well as their families, friends and loved ones."

In 2020, there have been 554 deaths as a result of illicit drugs in BC.


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