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Overdose deaths skyrocketing in B.C. says health officer

Coroners' data concerning drug overdose deaths from 1991 to May of this year suggests that B.C. is in the midst of a crisis.

Coroners’ data concerning drug overdose deaths from 1991 to May of this year suggests that B.C. is in the midst of a crisis.

North Island Medical Health Officer Charmaine Enns says the number of illicit drug overdoses escalated in 2013 and 2014, then skyrocketed last year.

“What’s happening in 2017 is 50 per cent worse than 2016,” Enns told Cumberland council Monday during a presentation about the Comox Valley Local Health Area Profile.

Last year in B.C., 967 people died of drug overdose. As of the end of May this year, 640 people have died.

“That averages to more than four people a day in B.C. are dying from an overdose. Fentanyl is driving a lot of this,” said Enns, who feels there is a crisis in men’s health.

She notes that 73 per cent of overdose deaths occur in people 30 to 59 years.

“If you include the 20- to 40-year-olds it becomes 90 per cent. Most of the deaths are in people in the prime of their life, and 82 per cent of them are men. Ninety per cent of the deaths are happening inside.

“We have a problem that’s not going away,” Enns added. “We’re not sure how we’re supposed to get to that population of people who are dying alone. We have a lot of work to do to bring down the barriers, as well as having a continuum of response…I think it really should cause us pause to think about the health of men and boys. Why are they disconnected? Where’s the social cohesion? Why is it difficult to access care? What are we not doing right in the system to be more approachable, to be more accessible? Lots of questions on lots of fronts.”

A report from the BC Coroners Service released this year shows the largest increase of illicit drug deaths among B.C. regions was on Vancouver Island, with 155 opioid overdose deaths in 2016 – a 156 per cent increase from 2015. Of those, 23 overdose deaths occurred on the North Island.

Comox Valley Record

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