British Columbia

B.C. illicit drug overdoses spike in March, killing 113 people

A total of 113 people in B.C. died of suspected illicit drug toxicity in March — the deadliest month in a year according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

113 people in B.C. died of suspected illicit drug toxicity in March — the deadliest month in a year

The words 'wake up, we are dying' are painted in protest on the Prince George courthouse in April, 2019. The Northern Health region has the highest rate of illicit drug deaths in the province, according to the B.C. Coroners Service. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

A total of 113 people in B.C. died of suspected illicit drug toxicity in March — the deadliest month in a year, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

The province hadn't seen more than 100 deaths in a single month since March 2019, which was three per cent deadlier than March of this year.

Last month's overdose deaths, however, mark a 61 per cent increase from February, according to the coroners service.

It said the increase, compared to a January-February average, occurred in every health authority in the province, with a 91 per cent increase in the Fraser Health region and 80 per cent increase in the Island Health region.

So far this year, males account for just over three quarters of the overdose deaths, consistent with last year, according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

Nearly three quarters of the overdose victims counted in 2020 were between 19 and 49 years old, with the highest rate of illicit drug deaths in the Northern Health region, followed by the Interior Health regions.

Going back as far as 2018, the hardest hit cities have been Hope, Fort Nelson, North Thompson, Lillooet and Arrow Lakes.

The B.C. Coroners Service reports that no deaths have occurred at overdose prevention sites or supervised consumption sites.

The B.C. government declared a public health emergency in 2016 when deaths began to spike. Since then, more than 5,000 people have died of illicit drug overdoses.

With files from The Canadian Press

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