Illicit Drug Toxicity Death Rate Rises in City and Province-Wide

The death rate from illicit drug toxicity in Nelson has increased over the past three years, reflecting a record increase in deaths across the province, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Data rates per 100,000 person-years have fallen from 7.3 in 2019 to 27.2 so far in 2021 in Nelson, with five deaths this year in the city alone.

In British Columbia, at least 201 people died in October – and 1,782 people in the first 10 months of 2021 – due to an “increasingly toxic and volatile supply of illicit drugs,” noted Lisa Lapointe , Chief Coroner of British Columbia.

“It’s a health crisis,” she said in a statement. “A comprehensive plan to ensure access to a secure supply for the thousands of BC residents who depend on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punitive and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a crucial step in reducing suffering and saving lives.

This message was echoed by Amber Streukens, peer harm reduction navigator at ANKORS, when she spoke to Nelson City Council in June about trying to turn the tide on the growing number of overdose deaths.

“A safe pharmaceutical supply of drugs that people actually use will have a serious impact on reducing overdose deaths,” she said.

Decriminalizing drugs is an essential first step in getting through the “mud,” she added, but it will not have the same impact on reducing overdose deaths.

“Not all, but many, people at risk for overdose are considered to have a diagnostic health problem. We have criminalized the substance of a health problem by criminalizing possession, which prevents people from getting help, ”she said.

A safe supply is the number one thing saving lives right now, said Tammy McLean, who ran the opioid agonist therapy clinic in Trail.

Fentanyl has been found in 85 percent of the drugs used in overdose deaths.

“We find fentanyl in all illicit drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and other opioids,” she said.

At 27.2 (per 100,000 person-years), the city ranks just behind Castlegar (50.1) as the highest death rate on the Kootenay border and was ranked 50th in the province. The overall overdose death rate for the Kootenay Boundary region was 32.8, with 19 people dying from drug toxicity in 2021.

October marks the first month in which 200 lives were lost to illicit drugs in British Columbia, with the 1,782 lives lost to drug toxicity between January and October, the highest number ever recorded in the country. province in one year.

Overall, 8,300 people have died from drug toxicity since the public health emergency regarding substance-related harms was declared in April 2016.

Urban areas

The impacts of the illicit drug crisis are being felt by communities across British Columbia

While the highest number of deaths continues to be recorded in urban centers such as Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, death rates per 100,000 population are at record levels in all health authorities, including Vancouver Coastal (47 , 6), Interior (45.0) and Northern (44.8).

The overall death rate in the province is 41.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double the rate recorded in 2016 (20.4).

On file

• 71% of people who died of suspected drug toxicity in 2021 were between 30 and 59 years old, and 79% were men.

• The number of deaths linked to the toxicity of illicit drugs in October 2021 is equivalent to approximately 6.5 deaths per day.

• By health service delivery area (HSDA), in 2021 the highest death rates were in Vancouver, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest, North Vancouver Island and Fraser East.

• By Local Health Zone (LHA), in 2021 the highest death rates were in Upper Skeena, Lillooet, Merritt, North Thompson and Enderby.

Illicit drug toxicity deaths in British Columbia are second only to cancer in terms of years of life lost. The median age of people who died from illicit drug toxicity in 2020 was 43.

• Analysis shows no evidence that prescribed safe supplies contribute to illicit drug-related deaths.

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