Overdose deaths on brink of new record in northeast B.C.

Three more drug overdose deaths were reported in northeast B.C. in October.

There have been 24 deaths this year, matching a previous record of 24 deaths in 2018, according new data from the the BC Coroners Service released Wednesday.

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All but two of those deaths have been linked to fentanyl, and the northeast has one of the highest death rates in the province this year, at 44 deaths per 100,000 people.

The number of overdose deaths in B.C. reached 1,386 between January and October of this year

There were 162 people who died of an overdose in B.C. last month — up 116% from October 2019 — and the province has now recorded eight consecutive months with more than 100 fatal overdoses from illicit drugs, the coroners service said.

The new statistics equate to more than five people per day dying of an overdose in the province, with extreme concentrations of fentanyl still present in the drug supply, according to the coroners’ service data.

Across northern B.C., there had been 106 fatal overdoses through the end of October, up 11 month over month. Fentanyl has been linked to 83 of those deaths.

The majority of deaths have been in the northern interior — 43 of the 66 deaths there have been in Prince George, while another 16 deaths have been reported in the northwest.

The coroners service says overall death rates in northern B.C. remain high, at 44 deaths per 100,000 people.

Earlier this month, both the Women's Resource Society and RCMP reported highly toxic street drugs being sold in Fort St. John, causing at least two deaths.

Reports of the drugs have ranged in colour from yellow to a blue-green neon, while RCMP say they are testing several drug samples that are pink in colour after seizures in recent weeks.

"There may be a new drug in town and we have attended several overdoses in the last three weeks and seized potential drugs," said Fort St. John detachment commander Insp. Tony Hanson. "We have sent two samples of the possible drug to our lab and requested an expedited test."

It's suspected the drugs are some form of opioid, most likely fetanyl.

Amanda Trotter, executive director for the WRS, is encouraging those who do use drugs to not use alone, and for city residents and businesses to make sure they have life-saving naloxone kits on hand. The society offers kits to the public for free.

“We do know that naloxone works, so we’re presuming it’s some kind of fentanyl,” said Trotter. “We’re trying to make sure people are aware. There’s something different out there.”

"Naxolone is the game changer,” she added. “We want as many kits as we can get out there, this is what’s saving lives.”

According to coroners service data, the large majority of overdose deaths in northern B.C., nearly 85%, are happening inside a home.

Just over 12% of deaths have happened outdoors, with a small fraction happening in public buildings, worksites, and other facilities.

— with files from Tom Summer,  Mike Howell

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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