Drug deaths soar 50 per cent in Fraser

166 overdose fatalities in region, 55 more than 2014, 465 deaths across B.C. last year

An Abbotsford woman died last June after overdosing on methylfentanyl she may have believed was heroin.

Illicit drug overdose deaths in B.C. jumped 27 per cent in 2015 and that grim statistic was even worse in the Fraser region, where deadly overdoses soared nearly 50 per cent.

A total of 465 B.C. residents died from illicit drugs last year, almost 100 more than in 2014, according to new statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service.

Fraser recorded the largest number of drug deaths of any B.C. region in 2015 – a total of 166, up from 111 in 2014.

“It’s been particularly severe in the Fraser region,” said coroner service spokesperson  Barb McLintock. “That’s really, really large even when you factor in things like increasing population.”

Broken down by municipality, Vancouver still had the most overdose deaths at 118.

But Surrey had 67 drug deaths last year, a jump from 42 in 2014. Abbotsford had 24 (up from seven) and Maple Ridge had 23 (up from 14.) Other cities with 10 or more drug deaths were Nanaimo, VIctoria, Kelowna, Burnaby, Prince George, Langley, Coquitlam and New Westminster.

December was particularly bad, with 62 deaths recorded province-wide, the largest number in any single month over the past 10 years.

An estimated 30 per cent of overdose deaths involved fentanyl – either the dangerously potent synthetic opiate by itself or mixed with other drugs – and that proportion has steadily climbed over the past three years.

Because powdered fentanyl is often added to other street drugs and unknowingly ingested, public health officials say it’s been responsible for an unusual number of overdoses in recreational or occasional drug users, rather than long-term injection drug users.

But McLintock said other drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine continue to account for more deaths overall.

“Fentanyl is part of the problem, but it’s far, far, far from being the whole problem.”

McLintock noted there are efforts underway to increase access to life-saving naloxone or Narcan, which can quickly stop an overdose in progress, by having firefighters carry the drug or by offering it over-the-counter without prescription at pharmacies.

“Certainly that form of harm reduction will help but it’s still only good for the opiates,” she cautioned. “It’s not going to help your crystal meth and your cocaine users because it often doesn’t work on those.”

The provincial overdose death rate is now at its highest level since 1998.

McLintock said the death statistics are just the tip of the iceberg because many more overdoses happen that don’t lead to fatalities, but signal a significant population taking serious risks with their health.

Illicit Drug Overdose Deaths in B.C.: 2006-2015 by Jeff Nagel

Just Posted

VIDEO: Three-peat for Semiahmoo at basketball’s Surrey RCMP Classic

South Surrey-based squad tops Lord Tweedsmuir in final at Enver Creek gym

Tardi earns first victory in quest for third national title

A Langley-based junior curling team is in Prince Albert, Sask. for the Canadian championships.

VIDEO: Surrey-based business wants customers to ‘Eat the Dishes’

New business plans to be one of the ongoing vendors at KPU’s new winter market

Surrey hunter fined $10,000 after shooting a bull moose and leaving it to die

The man was convicted for three Wildlife Act offences after shooting a bull moose not in season

Tonight’s Surrey RCMP Classic final: Cloverdale and South Surrey school teams to battle

Elsewhere, Holy Cross boys team aims to win another BC Catholics championship on home court

VIDEO: Students in MAGA hats mock Native American at Indigenous Peoples March

Diocese in Kentucky says it is investigating the matter, caught on video by onlookers

VIDEO: Koch’s OT winner sends Giants to sixth straight victory

Three games, three cities, three victories for Lower Mainland-based G-Men’s major junior hockey team.

CONSUMER REPORT: What to buy each month in 2019 to save money

Resolve to buy all of the things you want and need, but pay less money for them

Want to avoid the speculation tax on your vacant home? Rent it out, Horgan says

Premier John Horgan and Sheila Malcolmson say speculation and vacancy tax addresses homelessness

UPDATE: B.C. woman and boy, 6, found safe, RCMP confirm

Roseanne Supernault says both she and her six-year-old nephew are fine and she has contacted police

PHOTOS: Women’s Marches take to the streets across B.C. and beyond

Women and allies marched worldwide protesting violence against women, calling for equality

VIDEO: Giants wrap southern swing with 6-4 win in Spokane

The Lower Mainland-based hockey team defeated the Chiefs Friday night.

Anxiety in Alaska as endless aftershocks rattle residents

Seismologists expect the temblors to continue for months, although the frequency has lessened

Women’s March returns across the U.S. amid shutdown and controversy

The original march in 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, drew hundreds of thousands of people

Most Read