British Columbia

Coroners report shows continued decline in overdose deaths in B.C.

Statistics from the BC Coroners Service show the number of deaths in June 2019 decreased by 35 per cent compared to the same month a year ago.

Deaths decreased by 35% in June 2019 compared to the same month in 2018

Staff at safe consumption sites can prevent overdose deaths and it is recommended that users access these sites wherever possible. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)

Drug-related deaths are on the decline in British Columbia according to the latest statistics from the BC Coroners Service.

The report shows a 35 per cent decrease in the number of deaths in June 2019 compared to the same month in 2018 and a 15 per cent decrease between May and June of this year.

The latest report appears to be part of an ongoing downward trend. In July, the Coroners Service reported a 30 per cent decline in overdose deaths in the first five months of the year 

Andy Watson, spokesperson for the Coroners Service, said while the decrease is encouraging, the number of deaths in B.C. is still high relative to other provinces and historical , longer-term trends.

The province declared a state of emergency in April 2016 based on the number of deaths caused by illicit drugs. Last year, 763 people died between January and June. This year, the death toll is 538. 

Overdose deaths broken down by month over the last decade. (BC Coroners Service)

Between 2018 and 2019, fentanyl was detected in at least four out of five drug deaths. 

"It's like playing roulette if you're going to be using right now," said Watson, who added increasing access to clean  drugs could further reduce deaths.

"We continue to investigate these deaths where really they're preventable, because if people had been using something that was safe, they wouldn't be running into this in the first place," he said.

According to the report, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health continue to have the highest number of deaths, accounting for 65 per cent of deaths in 2019 so far. 

The Coroners Service is asking drug users to use at a supervised consumption site if possible, carry a naloxone kit and to never use alone.

There have been no reported overdose deaths at supervised consumption sites in B.C. to date.

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