Anna Kebaien, who serves as a liaison to the outreach team at Our Place Society demonstrates how to use a fentanyl test strip at the overdose prevention site at Our Place. (Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS)

B.C. sees 125 overdose deaths in January: Coroner

There were fewer fatalities than in January 2017, but 25 per cent more than deaths in December

The B.C. Coroners Service says 125 people died from a drug overdose in the month of January.

That equates to about four deaths every day, according to the latest data released Tuesday.

While there were fewer fatalities than in January 2017, the number of deaths climbed 25 per cent from stats for December 2017.

Due to privacy concerns, the B.C. Coroners Service has only confirmed the number of deaths in the three cities who continue to see the highest numbers of overdoses: Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.

By health authority, Vancouver Coastal Health saw 37 deaths, Fraser Health had 35 and there were 20 on Vancouver Island. The Interior saw 19 deaths.

All health authorities except Northern Health Authority saw an increase in the number of illicit drug overdose deaths in January 2018 compared to December 2017.

READ MORE: Treat opioid addiction as a chronic disease, says B.C. addictions expert

READ MORE: B.C. launches new drug-checking program, expands fentanyl testing

Certain trends are continuing into 2018, while a number of combative measures continue to be implemented by the province.

Men continue to see the lion’s share of overdose deaths and 50 per cent of all of fatal overdose victims were 19 to 39-years-old. One person between the age of 10 and 18 died in January.

Illicit fentanyl continues to be the top drug found in about 70 per cent of toxicology reports, followed by cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin.

Fatal drug overdoses occurred more during weeks when income assistance is paid out, which is the last Wednesday of each month. That span would see about five deaths per day between the Wednesday to Sunday.

READ MORE: Victoria Police Chief calls for staggered social assistance payments

READ MORE: Overdose data policy may not comply with FOI law, expert says

Nearly 95 per cent of deaths within the month occurred inside a home. None happened at any of the 10 supervised drug consumption site or overdose prevention sites across the province.

And the opioid epidemic continues to touch all corners of the province, with the only health services delivery areas to not see an overdose death in January 2018 being East Kootenay and the Northwest.


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