The number of illicit drug deaths spiked in May reaching the highest level ever in B.C., according to the latest Coroners Service statistics.
In May, 170 people died of an overdose, topping the previous record of 161 set in December 2016. Of the 170, the presence of fentanyl was detected in 119 cases.
“It is both sad and deeply frustrating to see the number of illicit drug deaths reach a new high in B.C. four years after the declaration of a public health emergency,” B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement Thursday. “Despite the many collective efforts directed at this crisis, the toxic drug supply continues to take the lives of our family members, friends and colleagues.”
May’s numbers represent a 93% increase over the same month last year and a 44% increase over April 2020.
According to the BC Coroners Service, there have been 554 illicit drug deaths across the province so far in 2020. The hardest hit municipalities were Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.
Dr. Bonnie Henry, B.C.’s provincial health officer, said the challenges were being compounded due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These tragic deaths are a potent reminder that we must persevere with the many interventions in place and continue in our efforts to reduce harm and stigma, stop overdoses and care for people with addiction,” she said.
“The overdose crisis is taking a toll on families and communities across this province, and we know the second public health emergency of COVID-19 is adding additional challenges. There is no simple solution, but we remain committed to doing all we can to support people who use drugs, as well as their families, friends and loved ones.”
The data showed that so far in 2020, 70% of those dying were between the ages of 19 and 49, with males accounting for 80% of all deaths.
There have been no deaths reported as supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites and 85% of toxicity deaths have occurred indoors.