There have been 1,204 suspected drug overdose deaths across B.C. through July and the province remains on course to see 2021 as the deadliest year of the opioid crisis to date.
The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in July is equal to about 5.9 per day. Through July in 2020, there were 941 overdose deaths recorded in the province.
There were 184 fatal overdoses in July, representing the second-deadliest month on record in B.C., just two fewer than the 186 deaths recorded in June 2020.
The 184 deaths marked the 17th consecutive month that more than 100 people in the province have died from a drug overdose — February 2020 being the last month in which fewer than 100 such deaths were recorded (76).
In Kamloops, another three people died from an overdose in July, bringing to 35 the number of such deaths in the city this year. Through July 2020, there were 32 overdose deaths in Kamloops.
Last year, there were 1,734 overdose deaths recorded in B.C., with 60 of those deaths in Kamloops — both of which were the most ever recorded in one year.
The 1,204 suspected drug toxicity deaths in the first seven months of 2021 is the highest number experienced in B.C. from January through July in any calendar year and 26 per cent more than the previous high of 954 deaths recorded between January and July 2017, according to the BC Coroners Service.
“The deaths of another 184 of our community members in July is a stark reminder of the tragic and unrelenting trajectory of this public health emergency," B.C.’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said.
Since the opioid crisis was declared a public health emergency in April 2016, , the death rate due to toxic drugs in British Columbia has almost doubled — from 20.4 deaths per 100,000 population in 2016 to 39.7 deaths per 100,000 population in 2021 to date.
In 2020, that rate was 33.7 deaths per 100,000 population.
As in previous reporting, fentanyl continues to be detected in 86 per cent of all drug toxicity deaths. Post-mortem toxicology results show a continued increase in the number of deaths associated with extreme fentanyl concentrations, with 13 per cent of preliminary toxicological tests noting concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per litre between April 2020 and July 2021.
Through July 2021, Kamloops and Kelowna have the sixth-most fatal overdoses, trailing Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Abbotsford and Burnaby, all of which have higher populations than Kamloops.
Kamloops recorded fewer than 10 overdose deaths per year from 2011 to 2015. In 2016, when that number spiked to 44, then 38 in 2017, 47 in 2018 — the previous high before the pandemic — and 26 in 2019 before skyrocketing to a record 60 deaths in 2020, a trend seen across the province.
There were 983 fatal drug overdoses in B.C. in 2019, down from 1,548 in 2018 before last year’s record 1,734.
Factors stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic have largely been blamed for the spike in overdose deaths in B.C.