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Campbell River sees province’s fifth highest rate of unregulated drug deaths

47 people lost their lives due to drug use in 2023
This year was the most deadly year in B.C.’s ongoing opioid crisis. In August, the Campbell River Community Action Team and other groups host an annual International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) event where people could learn to save a life by administering Naloxone. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

The Greater Campbell River health area had its deadliest year since the drug toxicity public health emergency was declared in 2016.

Last year 47 people died in the local health area, 16 more than in 2022. This put the Greater Campbell River area among those with the highest rate of deaths in the province, according to a report from the province.

The B.C. Coroner’s Service lists deaths per 100,000 people as a way to compare rates in communities of varying sizes. By this metric, the area had 93.8 deaths per 100,000, which was up from 63.9 the year before. Campbell River had the fifth highest rate of deaths, with Terrace in fourth at 93.9, Alberni/Clayoquot in third with 102.8, Hope in second with 123.7, and then Vancouver - Centre North at 552.4 per 100,000 population.

In terms of absolute numbers, Campbell River had the 15th highest number of drug deaths in the province.

According to the B.C. Emergency Health Services, paramedics responded to 681 calls for overdoses or drug poisoning in 2023.

Provincially, the majority of people who died from drug use were between the ages of 30 and 59 (70 per cent), and 77 per cent of the people who died were male. Most (80 per cent) deaths also happened indoors, with 47 in private residences and homes, and 33 per cent in other indoor locations.

“There is no indication that prescribed safer supply is contributing to unregulated drug deaths,” the report from the BC Coroners’ service says. “In 2023, hydromorphone was detected in only 3 per cent of unregulated drug deaths that have undergone … testing.”

Provincially, there were 2,511 unregulated drug deaths, which is the highest number on record and is a 5 per cent increase since 2022.

RELATED: Campbell River sees same number of drug deaths as last year, and it’s only September

2023 was the worst year for fatal toxic drug poisonings in B.C. history