Kathleen McKay learns how to administer naloxone at an event organized by Abbotsford Drug War Survivors on Aug. 31, 2021 to mark International Overdose Awareness Day. (Jessica Peters/ Abbotsford News)

Kathleen McKay learns how to administer naloxone at an event organized by Abbotsford Drug War Survivors on Aug. 31, 2021 to mark International Overdose Awareness Day. (Jessica Peters/ Abbotsford News)

Illicit drug deaths hit grim record high in the first 9 months of 2021: BC Coroners Service

Coroners service said that the death rate from illicit drug overdoses has risen to 39.4 per 100,000 residents

The number of British Columbians dead as a result of the overdose crisis has reached 1,534 as of the end of September, according to data released Nov. 9 by the BC Coroners Service.

The data revealed that 181 people died due to illicit drugs in August and 152 died in September. Both numbers represent record deaths for each month and are equal to about 5.5 deaths per day.

That brings the total number of drug deaths this year to 1,534 – higher than any year previous at this time and nearly 300 more than had died by the end of September last year.

The coroners service said that the death rate from illicit drug overdoses has risen to 39.4 per 100,000 residents, nearly double the rate in 2016 when a public health emergency was first declared.

Carfentanil, an analogue of fentanyl that is used in veterinary care but not humans, has been found in 137 suspected drug toxicity deaths so far this year, more than double the fatalities as in 2020.

As in previous months, men represent the majority of deaths at 79 per cent of total fatalities. The most affected age group are people between the ages of 30 and 59.

The two Lower Mainland health authorities – Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health – made up 61 per cent of fatalities and had the two highest numbers of deaths, 523 and 417, respectively.

The highest rates of deaths were in Vancouver Coastal Health with 45 deaths per 100,000 and Northern Health at 43 deaths per 100,000. By local health area, the highest rates of illicit drug deaths were in Upper Skeena, Lillooet, Merritt, North Thompson and Hope.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe lauded the province’s application to decriminalize the possession of drugs for personal use, adding that the “death rate due to toxic drugs has never been higher,” and neither has the need for a safe supply.

No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption sites.

READ MORE: B.C. applies to decriminalize personal possession of illicit drugs amid opioid crisis


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A person receives heroin from the Drug User Liberation Front, who were handing out a safe supply of illicit drugs in the Downtown Eastside to mark the five-year anniversary of British Columbia declaring a public health emergency in the overdose crisis, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)

A person receives heroin from the Drug User Liberation Front, who were handing out a safe supply of illicit drugs in the Downtown Eastside to mark the five-year anniversary of British Columbia declaring a public health emergency in the overdose crisis, in Vancouver, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)