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: LEGO fundraiser builds playground purse

Inspired families built LEGO creations, helped Silver Creek build playground

Sunshine Valley songbird releases EP

Fifteen-year-old Ashley Pater has been singing and performing since age 9

Rescue boat theft marks third in 3 years for Agassiz-based SAR team

Eight-metre Spirit of Harrison rescue vessel was stolen Friday night, found Saturday morning

Hope stylist holds hair-athon for a good cause

Shayla Ross donating all proceeds of $10 cuts to the food bank

Hope arena turns green for hockey tourney

A second attempt at green ice, with proper ice paint, after food colouring experiment last year

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

Anti-pipeline protestors block Kinder Morgan tanker near Seattle

Protest was spurred on by the 28 anti-Kinder Morgan activists arrested in Burnaby

Some surprises in new book about B.C. labour movement

“On the Line” charts history of the union movement back to the 1800s

B.C. cyclist races to first win of the season in New Zealand

Casey Brown captures Enduro title by more than two minutes at Crankworx Rotorua

Horse found stuck in muddy field rescued in Maple Ridge

Maple Ridge firefighters set up a pulley system to drag the horse to solid ground

VIDEO: Two Maple Ridge contortionists have sights set on Cirque

The Pair competed at the Viva festival in Vegas and are now auditioning for spot on America’s Got Talent

Notorious Russian troll farm also took swipes at Canadian targets

Targets included oil infrastructure and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Cirque du Soleil aerialist dies after fall during Florida show

Longtime performer fell while performing in VOLTA

Canada earns second Paralympic Games silver in 20 years

Held 1-0 lead in para hockey game from 12:06 of first to dying seconds of third and lost in overtime

Most Read