Illicit drug overdose deaths are down in B.C. so far this year, but Kamloops remains near the top of cities in the province when it comes to fentanyl-related deaths.
Figures released this week by the BC Coroners Service also show that while fewer British Columbians are dying of overdoses, an increasing number of illicit drug deaths are being linked to carfentanil — a synthetic opioid believed to be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl.
There have been 268 overdose deaths in B.C. in the first quarter of 2019 (January through March). There were 1,510 such deaths in the province in 2018.
“Really, since last November, we’ve seen year-over-year decreases in the total number of illicit drug deaths in B.C., so that’s a sign for continued cautious optimism,” BC Coroners Service spokesman Andy Watson said.
Kamloops has recorded 12 illicit drug overdose deaths so far in 2019, according to data from coroners, placing the city fifth among B.C. municipalities in the grim tally — behind Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Abbotsford and ahead of Kelowna, Burnaby, Langley, Prince George and Richmond.
In 2018, Kamloops recorded 47 illicit drug overdose deaths, placing the city sixth in B.C. behind Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria, Burnaby and Kelowna.
By comparison, Kamloops recorded an average of less than seven overdose per year deaths between 2009 and 2015, before the fentanyl crisis saw numbers spike.
The 30-29 age group has seen the most deaths (65), followed by the 40-49 age group (62), the 50-59 age group (59) and the 19-29 age group (48).
Watson said carfentanil was detected in nearly double the number of deaths in the first quarter of 2019 compared with all overdose deaths last year.
Coroners data show carfentanil has been present in 64 of the 268 overdose deaths to the end of March this year, compared with 35 in all of 2018.
Watson said fentanyl and its analogues have been detected in almost 85 per cent of suspected illicit drug deaths through the first quarter of 2019, similar to numbers in the same period last year.
The BC Coroner Service also said no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption sites or overdose prevention sites.