Northern Health still has highest death rate from toxic drugs in the province, according to mid-year coroners report
A new report from the BC Coroners Service shows more people have died from illicit drug overdose in the first six months of 2022 than in any other year in the province.
Preliminary data made public Tuesday shows that 1,095 people died between Jan. 1 and June 30, a toll that is likely to grow as death investigations conclude.
That's two dozen more people than at this time one year ago. It’s 958 more people than at this time 10 years ago.
The Northern Health region continues to have the highest death rate of any health authority in the province, with 53 deaths per 100,000 people. The province-wide death rate is 42 deaths per 100,000 people.
81 people died in the Northern Health region between January 1 and June 30, including 5 deaths each in the Peace River North and South areas.
The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in June 2022 equates to about 4.9 deaths per day.
The overdoses included in the coroners' monthly report are those involving heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, illicit fentanyl and other street drugs, as well as medications obtained or purchased without a prescription and combinations of those drugs with prescribed medications.
As has been the case for years in B.C., fentanyl is a contributing factor in a high percentage of deaths. So far this year, illicit fentanyl was found in 83 per cent of investigations.
That's down from 86 per cent in 2021, but this year's data is subject to change as further toxicology results are received, according to Tuesday's report.
Ten years ago, illicit fentanyl was a factor in just five per cent of deaths.
Most people (84 per cent) have died indoors, not on the street, in residences including private homes, supportive housing, shelters and single-room occupancy hotels.
No one has died at a supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention site, the data from this year showed, and the coroners service says there is nothing to suggest prescribed safe supply is playing a role in these deaths.
As for who is dying, most are men, and most are between the ages of 30 and 59.
According to the data, death rates among people of all age groups were down in June.
The proportion of deaths in those aged 50 and older "has steadily increased year after year for the past six years," including this year, where more than one third (37 per cent) have been in this age group.
Sixteen people have been under the age of 19 so far this year, two of whom died in June.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Kendra Mangione.