British Columbia

B.C. recorded 127 overdose deaths in September, coroner reports

British Columbia recorded 127 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in September, the coroner's service announced Tuesday, marking a slight decrease from the number of deaths in August but an increase of 112 per cent from September 2019.

Total marks a decrease from August, but is more than double the number from same month last year

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe pictured on Feb. 24, 2020. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

British Columbia recorded 127 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in September, the coroners service announced Tuesday, pushing the province's death total for the first nine months of the year past 1,200.

The BC Coroners Service said 1,202 people have died of a fatal overdose so far this year, compared to a total of 983 deaths in 2019.

The death toll in September is more than double the 60 fatalities recorded in the same month last year. But it marked a 15 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in August after several record-breaking months in the spring and summer.

The province recorded 150 overdose deaths in August, 178 in July, 183 in June and 177 in May. The June figure marked the highest monthly death toll in provincial history.

The death toll makes 2020 the third-deadliest year on record for drug overdoses, behind 2017 and 2018.

Deadly overdoses in B.C. also continue to outpace the number of deaths from COVID-19. 

Pandemic makes overdose crisis worse

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, as well as Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe, have said the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the overdose crisis as border closures disrupt the supply of illicit drugs and fuel the distribution of even more toxic substances.

Henry issued an order last month allowing registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses to prescribe safer drugs as an alternative to those bought on the street. The province has also increased the availability of the overdose-reversing medication naloxone.

Still, Lapointe said gaps in services remain.

People between the ages of 30 and 59, especially men, continue to account for the highest number of deaths. Northern B.C. continues to see the highest overdose death rate in the province, whereas rates in the Interior, Fraser, Vancouver Coastal and Island health regions have declined from highs seen earlier in the year.

The preliminary numbers announced for each month can change as coroner's investigations are completed.

With files from The Canadian Press


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