Drug overdose deaths level off in Vancouver while other cities see increase

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      The rate of fatal drug overdoses in Vancouver has stabilized.

      However, it’s a different story for other major cities across the province.

      In a presentation Wednesday (September 21), Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health, told Vancouver councillors that deaths associated with overdoses have levelled off in the city.

      According to numbers presented by Daly, a total of 78 people died in Vancouver from January to July this year.

      She pointed out that the figure corresponds on a one-to-one basis to the projected number of deaths based on last year’s figures.

      Daly noted that councillors that in contrast, other cities have seen an increased rate in deaths due to drug overdoses.

      The cities mentioned by the medical health officer were Surrey, Victoria, Burnaby, Kelowna, Abottsford, Nanaimo, Maple Ridge, Kamloops, and Langley.

      A total of 433 people have died in British Columbia due to overdoses from January to July this year.

      A huge proportion of these deaths—62 percent—was associated with fentanyl, a powerful opiod that is mixed with drugs like heroin.

      Earlier this year, Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall announced a provincial public health crisis in the wake of hundreds of fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl.

      At city hall, councillors were also informed today by police and fire officials about what responders are doing to deal with fentanyl use.

      For her part, Daly attributed the stabilization of overdose deaths in Vancouver to the availability of harm reduction measures. These include the distribution of naloxone, a chemical compound that reverses the effects of opiates.

      Daly also told councillors that there are enough spaces in clinics in the city for people wanting to seek treatment for addiction.

      Councillors were also shown by Dr Mark Lysyshyn, medical health officer for the North Shore, how naloxone is administered by using a grapefruit to inject the antidote.