A woman holds up a sign bearing a photograph of Morgan Goodridge during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

A woman holds up a sign bearing a photograph of Morgan Goodridge during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver on Saturday, August 15, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

155 overdose deaths in B.C. marks deadliest February on record

The pandemic has led to increased isolation and a more toxic drug supply

The province reported 155 fatal overdoses in February as the opioid crisis continues in B.C.

In a Wednesday (March 24) news release, the BC Coroners Service said that this was the 11th month in a row where more than 100 people had died.

“The number of deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in February highlights the ongoing critical risk to public health and safety from the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner. “The continued tragic and unprecedented rate of death in B.C. highlights the urgent need for a multi-faceted, evidence-based and accessible system of care for those experiencing problematic substance use.”

This was the deadliest February on record since the overdose crisis began nearly five years ago in B.C. with a 107 per cent increase over the same month last year.

February saw 5.5 people die per day, compared to an average of 4.7 people per day for 2020, when 1,724 people died in total.

An increasingly toxic drug supply and isolation, both brought on by the pandemic, have been blamed for the increase in deaths.

Data for the first two months of 2021 show that 81 per cent of those dying were male and that the highest number of deaths were reported in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria. While the highest number of overdose deaths were in Fraser Health with 116 and Vancouver Coastal Health at 90, the highest rate of death was in Northern Health at 58 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

Overall in B.C., the rate of overdose deaths so far for 2021 is at 38 per 100,000 people, higher than 2020’s record 33.5 per 100,000.

Of the year’s 329 deaths, 192 – or 58 per cent – were in private residences, while 92 – or 28 per cent – were in other residences. An additional 36 – 10.9 per cent – were outside.

While the BC Coroners Service stressed that 2021 data is preliminary, thus far about 85 per cent of overdose deaths had fentanyl present this year, compared to 86 per cent last year.

Overall, between 2018 and 2020, fentanyl and its analogues were involved in 87 per cent of deaths, with cocaine at 48.7 per cent and methamphetamine at 38.4 per cent.

Extreme fentanyl concentrations, defined as exceeding 50 micrograms per litre, were found in 13 per cent of people who fatally overdoses between April 2020 and January 2021, compared to eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

Carfentanil, deemed 100 times stronger than fentanyl, has been found in 31 deaths in the first two months of 2021, compared to 65 deaths in all of 2020.

READ MORE: 2020 marks deadliest year of overdose crisis in B.C. history


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

B.C. overdosesopioid crisis

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Black Press files)
Chief Civilian Director Ronald J. McDonald, QC reviewed the evidence and determined reasonable grounds exist to believe in officer may have committed offenses. (Black Press files)
Crown considering charges against Williams Lake Mountie after high-speed pursuit: police watchdog

IIO says the man, who was arrested, sustained serious but not life-threatening injuries from the incident

An RCMP cruiser flashes its light as it speeds up Highway 97. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Officers suffer minor injuries after a fight with a prohibited driver

The 44-year-old man resisted arrest and shoved an officer to the ground

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

Ken Jensen is launching a campaign to keep access to his audio library books. (Photo submitted).
White Cane Club president lobbies to preserve audio book access

Ken Jensen is urging others to send letters to federal government to preserve funding for CELA.

Sarah Smith is a bereavement worker with 100 Mile Hospice. (Kelly Sinoski - 100 Mile Free Press).
‘Grief never goes away’: Hospice seeks to add programs

Growing demand for bereavement services in the South Cariboo region.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

Tyson Ginter, 7, is proud of his latest Hot Wheels he recently received by Quesnel RCMP Const. Matt Joyce. (Photo submitted)
B.C. Mountie handing out toy cars to light up children’s faces

‘A lot of times it will be the only interaction they have with the police,’ says Const. Matt Joyce

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a technical briefing on the COVID pandemic in Canada, Friday, January 15, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s ICUs see near-record of COVID-19 patients last week as variant cases double

Last week, Canadian hospitals treated an average of 2,500 patients with COVID-19, daily, up 7% from the previous week

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
UVic, women’s rowing coach deny former athlete’s allegation of verbal abuse

Lily Copeland alleges coach Barney Williams would stand close to her and speak aggressively in the sauna

Librarian Katie Burns with the Fraser Valley Regional Libraries poses for a photo in Chilliwack on June 18, 2019. Monday, April 12, 2021 is Library Workers’ Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 11 to 17

Library Workers Day, That Sucks! Day, and Wear Your Pyjamas to Work Day are all coming up this week

A large illuminated heart was installed on the roof of the Vernon Jubilee Hospital May 1, 2020. (VJH Foundation photo)
Three deaths linked to COVID-19 outbreak in Vernon hospital

Interior Health reports two additional deaths at VJH

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed on April 4, according to a statement from police. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police name victim following city’s fourth homicide of 2021

Robinson Russ, 37, was fatally stabbed Sunday in the Downtown Eastside

A man wears a face mask past the emergency department of the Vancouver General Hospital. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Calls for stricter action in B.C. as COVID-19 variants projected to climb

Jens von Bergmann says the province has taken a ‘wait and see’ approach when early action is needed

Most Read