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Overdose death toll rises to 16 in northeast B.C.

Men have accounted for 80% of overdose deaths in B.C. this year

Two more fatal drug overdoses were reported in northeast B.C. in May, according to the latest data from the BC Coroners Service.

The latest coroners report shows there were 16 deaths reported at the May, with the death rate in the northeast still among the highest in B.C., at 58.4 per 100,000 people. 

Across northern B.C., there have been 58 overdose deaths this year, including 29 in the Northern Interior and 13 in the Northwest. 

There have been 9 deaths in Peace River South, and 4 in Peace River North this year, according to the coroners report. Numbers for Fort Nelson have been suppressed, according to the report, and the Coroners Service says figures for the region will be updated every four months due to small numbers.

Across B.C. there were 160 overdose deaths in May, bringing the total number of deaths for the year to 851.

The Coroners Service said 25% of samples tested in May contained extreme concentrations (more than 50 micrograms per litre) of fentanyl - the highest rates reported since at least the beginning of 2019.

Carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has now been detected in 75 deaths in 2021 after being identified in 65 investigations in all of 2020. Sixty per cent of returned tests in May were also positive for benzodiazepines.

"As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, we must turn our attention to combating B.C.'s other public health emergency with the same sense of urgency," said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe in a statement. 

"We need to ensure that safe alternatives to toxic illicit drugs are available throughout the province, and that we are taking meaningful steps to reduce stigma and offer substance users access to the supports they need and are seeking."

Men have accounted for 80% of overdose deaths in B.C. this year, with the majority of deaths, 85%, happening in private residences and other social and supportive housing.

There were a record 29 fatal overdoses in northeast B.C. in 2020 — 21 in Peace River North, 5 in Peace River South, and 3 in Fort Nelson.

Northeast B.C. Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths by year

2021 - 16

2020 - 29

2019 - 18

2018 - 24

2017 - 23

2016 - 18

2015 - 4

2014 - 8

2013 - 5

2012 - 6

2011 - 7

2010 - 3 

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