We’re only half way through 2016 and there have already been as many deaths by drug overdose this year on Vancouver Island than in any previous year since 2007, according to the BC Coroner’s Service.
In a report issued this week (PDF), the Coroner’s Service reported that 66 deaths have been recorded Island-wide so far this year due to illicit drugs, already passing the 61 recorded last year, which was the previous high.
And Campbell River is matching that pace. Three fatal overdoses have been recorded in the first half of this year, which already matches last year’s total and is on pace to match 2011’s number – the highest year recorded in the report. Our community has already surpassed the average of 2.5 per year over the period recorded (2007-2016).
It should be noted that the overdose numbers from the Coroner’s Service report are only in regards to “illicit” drugs, meaning street drugs like heroin and cocaine, medications that were not prescribed to the deceased, combinations of those drugs or overdoses where the drug’s origin is unknown.
The Coroner’s service is also careful to say that these numbers – especially for more recent years – may change, since they are using a live database to compile the figures, so comparing the current year directly with previous years may not be entirely accurate once all current investigations are complete.
Province wide, however, the Coroner’s Service itself says the 309 apparent illicit drug overdose deaths from January to May of this year is a 75 per cent increase over the same period in 2015.
Fentanyl seems to be a major factor in the rise in numbers, based on the report, and the percentage of deaths in which that drug was detected – alone or in combination with other drugs – increased to approximately 56 per cent so far this year. Last year the drug was found in approximately 31 per cent of cases.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe calls the report’s findings “hugely significant,” saying that at the current rate, B.C. could see 750 drug deaths this year, which would be an over 50 per cent increase over last year’s death toll and an over 270 per cent increase over 2007 numbers.