British Columbia

102 people died from drug overdoses in B.C. in February

New numbers from the BC Coroners Service show that 102 people died of a suspected overdose last month.

That amounts to an average of more than 3.6 deaths every day

The province says the new measures strengthen what is already among Canada's most robust opioid strategies. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

New numbers from the BC Coroners Service show that 102 people in the province died of a suspected overdose in February.

That's an average of more than 3.6 overdoses every day, which is just below the average in January. In that month, 117 people died of overdoses, but the month is three days longer.

Both numbers show a decline from December, which saw a record-breaking 142 overdose-related deaths.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said there's still a long way to go in addressing the crisis.

"While I'm very relieved to see that the numbers have not continued to increase over the last two months, we are still losing cherished members of our communities at a terrible rate."

B.C.'s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says a dropping number of overdose-related deaths doesn't mean the risk of using is lower. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

She noted that despite the recent monthly drop in deaths, the number is still 73 per cent higher than the same month last year.

Of the February 2017 deaths:

  • Men accounted for just over 83 per cent.
  • Individuals age 30 to 49 accounted for over half (53 per cent) of the deaths.
  • Vancouver, Surrey and Kelowna are the top locations for fatalities.
  • No deaths occurred at supervised consumption sites.
  • Nearly 90 per cent of deaths happened indoors, whether at a home or another building.

The Vancouver Island and Northern Health Authorities saw a higher number of deaths in their regions last month, according to the statement.

Lapointe said the numbers make it clear that risk is still high.

"People are dying in far higher numbers than we've ever seen, and a slight decrease in fatalities from the previous month should not be seen as any indication that the risk has decreased."

Last year, 914 people in B.C. died from an illicit overdose. In June, Lapointe said overdose deaths had become the leading cause of unnatural death in the province, surpassing motor vehicle crashes.

With the latest numbers, the total for 2017 is now at 219.