VICTORIA -- B.C.’s other health crisis, the overdose epidemic, was the deadliest it’s ever been last year.

In 2020, there were 1,716 deaths related to drug overdoses across the province, a 74 per cent increase compared to the 984 deaths seen in 2019.

That total represents approximately 4.7 deaths related to illicit drugs every day, nearly doubling the average in 2019, according to the BC Coroners Service.

On Vancouver Island, Victoria is considered the third hardest-hit community across B.C., behind Vancouver and Surrey, respectively.

In 2020, Victoria saw 122 overdose deaths, nearly doubling the 62 recorded in 2019.

Meanwhile, Nanaimo was the ninth hardest-hit community in B.C., seeing 39 overdose deaths in 2020, up from 27 recorded the year before.

The coroners service believes that COVID-19 and a dramatic increase in the toxicity of illicit drugs has led to the increase in overdose deaths.

Fentanyl, for instance, was detected in more than 80 per cent of all overdose deaths last year.

The coroner service notes that the total number of overdose deaths in B.C. last year was higher than all deaths related to motor-vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides and prescription-drugs combined.

While overdose deaths surged to new heights in Victoria last year, the coroners service says that drug toxicity deaths have begun trending downwards in the Island Health region over the past several months.

However, the organization cautioned that the total number of overdoses was still high in the health authority.

Further details on B.C.’s overdose crisis can be found here.