New year continues the trend of increasing overdose deaths in B.C.

The year began with an increase in overdose deaths, according to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service. A total of 125 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in B.C. in January — a 25 per cent increase from December 2017.

The latest figures show 125 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in B.C. in January

The latest figures from the B.C. Coroners Service show the opioid overdose crisis is showing no sign of letting up. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

The year began with an increase in overdose deaths, according to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service.

A total of 125 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in B.C. in January — an average of four a day. The number of deaths went up 25 per cent from the previous month, when 100 people died in B.C.

"It's disappointing to see that the numbers of deaths increased compared to December," said Dr. Patricia Daly, chief medical health officer at Vancouver Coastal Health.

"I had hoped, given that we did see some decrease in the last four months of 2017, that we might see that continue."

The figures show the overwhelming number of deaths are people aged 19-59. Of those, 82 per cent are male and 94 per cent are people dying indoors, the majority of them in their homes.

"It could be related to the drug supply that may be circulating around the province," Dr. Daly said. "We know that the level of contamination can vary month to month."

Overdose deaths in the days following the distribution of income assistance cheque is a trend that also continued in January. On average, 5.2 people died from Wednesday to Sunday on cheque week.

The year began with an increase in overdose deaths, according to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service. A total of 125 people died of a suspected illicit drug overdose in B.C. in January — a 25 per cent increase from December 2017. 6:19

According to B.C. Coroners Service statistics, more fatal overdoses occurred in 2017 and, also so far, in 2018, during the days following income assistance payments than on all other days.

The report also says three cities in the province — Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria — reported more than 10 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in January.

However, when comparing January of 2017 to January of this year, the number of overdose deaths actually declined by 12 per, cent.

Even so, illicit drug overdoses have surpassed other causes of unnatural deaths in B.C. In 2017 by a significant margin. 

More people died of an overdose than in homicides, motor vehicle incidents and suicides combined.

A graph that depicts the steady increase in illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. versus other causes of unnatural deaths. (B.C. Coroners Service)

With files from The Early Edition. 

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