Illicit drug toxicity mortality rate remains extreme


British Columbia Coroners’ Service released updated reports on illicit drug toxicity-related deaths and drug-related deaths detected by fentanyl at the end of July 2020, with 175 illicit drug toxicity-related deaths reported in July, including two in the East Kootenay region.

So far this year, 11 people have died in East Kootenay from deaths from illicit drug toxicity, compared to one in 2019.

This is the third month in a row with more than 170 suspected illicit drug-related deaths reported to the BC Coroners Service.

“The number of people dying in British Columbia due to a supply of dangerous drugs continues to exceed deaths from homicides, motor vehicle incidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined,” said Lisa Lapointe , Chief Coroner. “This health emergency continues to wreak tragic havoc on people from all walks of life and in all communities across the province. Accessing key harm reduction services in the midst of a dual health emergency has been a challenge, and the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl trafficked results in deaths within moments of use.

“It is not uncommon for two or three people using together to die suddenly and without the possibility of seeking help. Given the high prevalence of fentanyl found in all fatal overdoses, if you use any illicit substances – whether fentanyl, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines – it is essential that you only use them. ” in the presence of a person who is willing and able to inject naloxone and call for emergency help.

“As the risks to those who buy in the illicit market are extreme, we continue to encourage clinicians to support those at risk of overdose by prescribing a safe supply. We also continue to advocate for an accessible, evidence-based, and accountable treatment and recovery system for anyone with problematic substance use who seeks this medical assistance. “

The total illicit drug toxicity-related deaths for July 2020 (175) represents a 136% increase over the number of deaths observed in July 2019 (74).

British Columbia’s coroners’ service has detected a sustained increase in illicit drug poisoning deaths since March, and the province has now recorded five consecutive months with more than 100 illicit drug poisoning deaths.

“What the latest figures are showing us is that the overdose crisis has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented tragedy of death and loss to families in our province continues,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. “The toxicity of the drug supply is extreme, and I implore anyone who uses drugs not to do it alone. For friends and family who are worried about loved ones, reach out and connect with them and let them know that they are not alone.

Once again, the post-mortem toxicological test data published in this report suggests an increase in the number of cases with extreme concentrations of fentanyl (greater than 50 micrograms per liter) in April, May, June and July 2020 compared to previous months.

“Access to a safer supply remains the most urgent intervention to stop overdoses and prevent people from dying,” said Guy Felicella, peer clinical advisor at the Overdose Emergency Response Center and the BC Center on Substance Use. ” Let’s be clear. No one chooses to become addicted to drugs and no one chooses to die of an overdose. We can, however, give people a choice: to choose between the supply of toxic and poisonous street drugs that fuel these deaths or pharmaceutical alternatives in the form of a safer supply. Making that choice a reality is a matter of life and death.

There have been 909 illicit drug-related deaths to date in 2020 in British Columbia, and the number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest monthly totals on record. The number of non-fatal overdose incidents is also increasing, with a record over 2,700 calls reported by BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) in July.

“Paramedics respond to and resuscitate overdose patients about 80 times a day, every day in British Columbia,” said Jon Deakin, chief of paramedical practice at BCEHS. “That’s a lot. It’s the most daily overdose the BCEHS has ever seen.

From April to July 2020, approximately 13% of detected fentanyl cases had extreme fentanyl concentrations (greater than 50 micrograms per liter) compared to 8% between January 2019 and March 2020.

A review of completed cases from 2016 to 2019 indicates that the top four detected drugs relevant to illicit drug toxicity deaths were fentanyl (83%), cocaine (50%), methamphetamine / amphetamine (34%) and heroin (15%).

Between April and July 2020, more than a third (35%) of illicit drug toxicity deaths involved people 50 years of age or older, compared to 26% between January and March 2020. In 2018 and 2019, 31% of people who died were 50 years old. or older.

In 2020, 85% of illicit drug-related toxicity deaths occurred indoors (56% in private residences and 29% in other residences, including social and supportive housing, individual residences, shelters and hotels and other indoor places) and 14% occurred outdoors in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks, etc.

2019 figures

By health authority in 2020, the highest rates were in Coastal and North Vancouver health authorities (35 deaths per 100,000 people). Overall, the rate in British Columbia is 31 deaths per 100,000 people in 2020, which is similar to the rates for 2017 and 2018. The rate for East Kootenay is 22.2.

By health service delivery area in 2020, South Vancouver Island, Vancouver and Thompson Cariboo Shuswap experienced the largest increase in average monthly illicit drug toxicity deaths between April and July 2020, compared to the period between January and March 2020.

By local health region from 2018 to 2020, the highest rates of illicit drug toxicity deaths were in Hope, Lillooet, Vancouver, Grand Forks and Peace River North.

As reported on July 6 by the First Nations Health Authority, the toll of the illicit drug toxicity crisis on First Nations in British Columbia is rising again in 2020, with a 93% increase in member deaths. First Nations in British Columbia from January to May of this year. year, which represents 89 deaths of First Nations individuals.

First Nations people make up 3.4% of the province’s population, but accounted for 16% of all illicit drug-related deaths in British Columbia from January to May 2020, a rate more than five times that of other residents of British Columbia.

In May, the Provincial Health Services Authority launched its Lifeguard app to help prevent overdoses. The app is a resource designed in British Columbia to reduce risks for people who use substances.

In July, paramedics in British Columbia responded to the most overdose calls on record since the opioid crisis was officially declared in 2016. Paramedics were called on 2,706 overdose calls in July, or 87 overdose calls per day. The average is usually around 2,000 overdose calls per month. Most were men between the ages of 21 and 40.

No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites.

Illicit drug overdose death report

Death report detected by fentanyl

Main picture: Illicit drug-related deaths, overdose deaths, by health service delivery area so far in 2020. British Columbia Coroners Service


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