B.C. reported nearly 500 illicit drug deaths in the first three months of 2021 . (BCEHS photo)

B.C. reported nearly 500 illicit drug deaths in the first three months of 2021 . (BCEHS photo)

Northern Health region records highest illicit drug death rates in first three months of 2021

B.C. recorded nearly 500 ilicit drug deaths between Jan.1 to Mar.31 in 2021

Northern Health Authority region has the highest per capita illicit drug death rates in the province in the first three months of 2021, according to a BC Coroners report released April 29.

By health authority, Northern Health recorded 57 deaths per 100,000 individuals followed by Vancouver Coastal Health at 45 per 100,000.

The province recorded a staggering 498 deaths between Jan.1 to Mar. 31.

Last month alone the province recorded 158 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs which was a 41 per cent increase over the 112 deaths recorded in March 2020.

The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in March 2021 was about 5.1 deaths per day with the province wide death rate for 2021 standing at 38.3 per 100,000 residents.

According to the report, 69 per cent of those dying were aged 30 to 59 and males accounted for 80 per cent of the deaths.

Carfentanil was detected in 18 deaths in March, bringing the total number of carfentanil-related deaths in 2021 to 48. For comparison, carfentanil was detected in 65 deaths between January and December 2020.

Additionally, the detection rate of benzodiazepines has increased from 15 per cent of samples in July 2020 to 51 per cent of samples in February 2021.

“There are no simple solutions to the toxic drug crisis this province is experiencing,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service.

“Problematic substance use is widespread throughout our province, and evidence-based strategies, such as supervised consumption and drug-checking services, prescription alternatives and accessible and meaningful treatment and recovery options, are essential to reduce the death and suffering,” she said.

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