Revised data reveals March 2018 was the single worst month of B.C.'s five-year fentanyl crisis

It means the peak of B.C.'s overdose epidemic is not two years in the past, as previously thought, but in fact occurred just a few months ago

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      Vancouver's mayor has made another plea for higher levels of government to make clean opioids available to people who are at a heightened risk of overdose due to B.C.'s ongoing opioid epidemic.

      “Last week’s death count is simply ghastly: 11 people died due to suspected overdoses," mayor Gregor Roberston said quoted in an August 3 media release. "Tragically, this marks Vancouver’s worst week for overdose deaths so far this year.

      "A poisoned supply of street drugs continues to kill our loved ones and devastate families across our city," he continued. "Lives are on the line—people need access to safe prescription drugs rather than being forced to turn to the deadly drugs from organized crime on our streets.”

      Robertson's call is in reference to opioid-substitution programs that see people with an entrenched addiction to opioids supplied with clean drugs via the country's health-care system. In the Downtown Eastside, for example, the Portland Hotel Society offers patients injectable hydromorphone—an opioid similar to heroin that in North America is commonly prescribed as a painkiller—as an alternative to street drugs contaminated with the more dangerous synthetic-opioid fentanyl.

      The statement the mayor's office issued today follows the publication of yet another B.C. Coroners Service report that makes clear government actions taken thus far remain wholly inadequate.

      There were 105 illicit-drug overdose deaths across B.C. in June 2018, according to the August 2 document.

      That's down from the previous three months, when there were 162 fatal overdoses in March, 133 in April, and 114 in May. But 105 deaths in June is far above the monthly average B.C. experienced before fentanyl arrived, which was just 32 deaths per month in 2012, for example.

      Data covering the first half of the year puts B.C. on track for 1,484 deaths in 2018, which would be another all-time high, up from 1,451 in 2017, 994 the year before that, and 526 in 2015.

      The August 2 coroner's report also includes revised month-by-month data going back several years. (Each monthly coroner's report includes data revisions as new autopsies are completed and additional lab results come back.)

      The revised numbers included in the department's latest report are significant because for the first time in more than two years, they assign a new month as a peak period of B.C.'s crisis.

      Travis Lupick / B.C. Coroners Service

      Previously, the worst month for overdose deaths in B.C. was December 2016, when it was believed 162 people died. Now that number has come down to 161.

      Meanwhile, the number of deaths recorded in March 2018 was increased, from 160 to 162.

      It means that the peak of B.C.'s epidemic of overdose deaths is no longer two years in the past, but in fact occurred just a few months ago.

      Five years after fentanyl arrived in B.C. and sent overdose deaths skyrocketing, the numbers remain higher than ever. There still is no end to the crisis in sight.