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B.C. records 3 overdose deaths per day as drug crisis worsens: coroner
Victoria police have seized a shipment of illicit drugs from China worth $1.2-million, including a massive quantity of the deadly opiate fentanyl. Dec. 1, 2016. (Victoria Police)
VICTORIA -- Approximately three drug users in British Columbia died of overdoses each day in the first four months of 2020, according to new data released by the province Wednesday.
The BC Coroners Service says overdoses continued to rise in April, with 117 suspected drug toxicity and fentanyl-detected deaths recorded.
The number represents a four per cent increase from the 112 drug deaths recorded in March, which itself was a 61 per cent increase from drug deaths in February, according to the coroners office.
The illicit drug toxicity death totals for March and April mark the first time B.C. has recorded over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths in back-to-back months since November and December 2018.
An average of 3.2 drug deaths per day were recorded in the first four months of this year, according to the coroners office. There have been 382 illicit drug deaths in B.C. in 2020.
"We remain in a public health emergency, with more than three British Columbians dying each day from illicit drug toxicity deaths," said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe in a statement Wednesday.
"Illicit drug toxicity death rates in B.C. are still the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada. Every region in B.C. has been impacted."
The B.C. government declared a public health emergency in 2016 when deaths began to spike. Since then more than 5,000 people have died of illegal drug overdoses.
"We continue to recommend a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system as an important pillar in preventing future deaths," Lapointe said.
The province's northern region continues to see the highest rate of illicit drug toxicity deaths per capita, with 28 deaths per 100,000 people.
The regions with the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths so far in 2020 are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.
Approximately 71 per cent of those dying were aged 19 to 49, and men accounted for 79 per cent of drug deaths in 2020.
The coroners office says 83 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths this year occurred inside and 12 per cent occurred outside. No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.