More than 150 British Columbians died in November due to the overdose crisis, according to a report from the BC Coroners Service released Monday (Dec. 21).
The 153 deaths last month represent a seven per cent decrease from October but an 89 per cent increase since November 2019. That equates to just over five people dying each day this month.
According to the report, overdose deaths in people aged 60 and up have been on the rise in recent months, while deaths in those aged 19 to 59 have decreased slightly. In 2019, there were 95 illicit drug deaths in people aged 60 and up; this year, that number is already 175 with December figures yet to come.
The number of illicit drug deaths has risen sharply overall in B.C. In 2019, a total of 984 people died, the lowest since 2015. So far in 2020, there have been 1,548 deaths overall.
Health officials have attributed the spike in deaths to the heightened toxicity of B.C.’s illicit drug supply as a result of the pandemic, which has kept borders largely shut since March. Toxicology results from deaths between April and November suggest that 13 per cent had extreme fentanyl concentrations (greater than 50 migrograms per litre) compared eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.
Men continue to die at much higher rates than women, making up 81 per cent of 2020 drug deaths to date. The 293 women who have died so far in 2020 represent a 23 per cent increase from all of 2019, while the 1,255 men who have died so far this year represent a 68 per cent increase from last year.
The highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths happened in Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions, with 510 and 424 deaths, respectively. The highest death rates were in Northern Health with 44 deaths per 100,000 people, with Vancouver Coastal Health second at 38 per 100,000.
As has typically been the case, the vast majority of deaths (more than 80 per cent) happened indoors. Overall, 55 per cent of fatal overdoses happened in a private residence, 26 per cent happened in other residences (hotels, motels, rooming houses, single room occupancy, shelters, social/supportive housing) and 1.1 per cent took place in public buildings. Just under 15 per cent of deaths occurred outside.
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