B.C. sets another depressing record with more than 1,500 overdose deaths recorded in 2018

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      For the first time, 2018 saw British Columbia suffer more than 1,500 fatal overdoses in a single year.

      It was the sixth year in a row that the province set a record for overdose deaths, according to a March 19 B.C. Coroners Service report.

      The synthetic-opioid fentanyl is primarily to blame for the precipitous rise in fatal overdoses.

      Fentanyl and analogues were associated with four percent of illicit-drug overdose deaths in 2012. Then 25 percent in 2014, 67 percent in 2016, and then 87 percent in 2018.

      The 1,510 fatal overdoses recorded last year compares to 1,486 in 2017, 991 the year before that, 530 in 2015, and 368 in 2014. (From 2001 to 2010, the average number of deaths recorded annually was 204.)

      “There were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites,” states an accompanying media release.

      The city of Vancouver accounted for more than a quarter of the province’s overdose deaths. It recorded 387 in 2018, up from 376 the previous year and 232 in 2016.

      Adjusted for population, in 2018, the rate of fatal overdoses in Vancouver climbed to 56.8 per 100,000 people.

      Five years earlier, Vancouver’s rate of fatal overdoses was 12.3 per 100,000. A decade ago, it was just 6.1.


      A separate B.C. Coroners Service report that was also released this morning digs deeper into overdose deaths associated with synthetic opioids. It includes data on carfentanil, a drug similar to fentanyl but even more dangerous.

      Carfentanil was associated with 71 deaths between June 2017 (when B.C. first began testing for carfentanil) and December of that year. In all of 2018, carfentanil was detected in 35 deaths. In January 2019—the most-recent month for which data is available—that number was 13. “This is subject to change as further toxicology results are received,” the report notes in reference to recent figures.