A new report from the BC Coroner’s Service is bringing to light more staggering numbers on drug overdose deaths in BC., and the numbers are cause for concern.
In 2015, the illicit drug overdose death rate climbed to 10.2 deaths per 100,000 population, rates not seen since 1998.
Fentanyl is a driving factor behind the spike, accounting for 32% of the illicit drug overdose deaths last year. This year, the number has jumped to nearly half.
The total number of illicit drug overdose deaths in BC as of April 30th is 256. That’s an 88% spike in deaths compared to the same time period last year.
In Metro Vancouver, the numbers are alarming, with 27 fentanyl overdose deaths in the first four months of 2016 compared to 161 last year.
There were 121 deaths among people aged between 10 and 29 in 2015 and so far in 2016 there have already been 74.
Health Minister Terry Lake was briefed on the information yesterday.
Not much accomplished since declaring overdose deaths a public health emergency
Last month, B.C.’s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency as a direct response to the rapid rise in fentanyl-related overdose deaths.
Dr. Perry Kendall admits that despite efforts to get the word out and increase access to naloxone, the province isn’t winning the battle.
“What we haven’t been able to do is stem the amount of illicit oxycodone or fentanyl that is coming in to the province and we haven’t been that successful as of yet in persuading people not to use illicit drugs.”
Kendall says more education and access to naloxone may help the problem.
“Make more people aware of it, make more pharmacists available to prescribe it, and make sure all physicians who are prescribing opiates to people have also made sure the people they’re prescribing it to have naloxone handy and know how to use it.”
The health emergency declaration gives Kendall the power to track non-fatal overdoses.
He expects that data to start coming in next week.