Latest coroner's report warns drugs killing more people in B.C. than homicides, suicides, and car accidents combined

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      The latest batch of numbers on B.C.’s overdose epidemic suggests a general downward trend that began in the spring of 2017 may have come to an end.

      There were 125 fatal overdoses in B.C. in January 2018. That’s the highest monthly number recorded since May 2017, when there were 140 illicit-drug overdose deaths across B.C.

      A graph that appears toward the beginning of the B.C. Coroners Service’s latest monthly report notes that more people in B.C. now die of a drug overdose than die of homicides, suicides, and motor-vehicle accidents combined.

      In a recent interview with the Straight, B.C.’s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, expressed despair.

      “We’ve had 2,500 deaths in the last two years. That’s an absolute disaster,” she said on the phone (before the January numbers were released).

      “Among those of us who are working in this area, I don’t think there’s one person who doesn’t think we just need to do something different.

      “Hundreds of people are dying,” Lapointe continued. “If 2,500 people died from a faulty airbag in the last two years…My goodness.”

      B.C. Coroners Service

      The report released today (March 6) also includes revised annual totals going back several years. There were 1,436 fatal overdoses in 2017, 995 the year before that, 518 in 2015, and 368 in 2014.

      It also sheds some light on what’s driving the crisis and where people are dying.

      The report notes that 83 percent of fatal overdoses in 2017 involved fentanyl, a synthetic opioid significantly more toxic than heroin. That number was up from 67 percent in 2016.

      It also states that in 2017, 59 percent of fatal overdoses occurred inside, in a private residence, while another 25 percent occurred inside in another sort of residence, such as a hotel room or shelter. Only 11.5 percent occurred outside.

      Another interesting observation came from a B.C. Coroners Service spokesperson this morning: while there were 125 fatal overdoses in B.C. in January 2018, only three municipalities saw more than 10: Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.