B.C.'s other health crisis: 162 illicit drug overdose deaths, or about 5 people a day, last month
VANCOUVER -- A just-released report on B.C.'s other public health crisis shows nearly five people died per day in the province last month of illicit drug overdose.
The report from the BC Coroners Service shows there were 162 toxicity deaths in October.
It's the fifth month this year with more than 160 deaths, and the eighth with more than 100, the chief coroner said.
The latest death toll is more than double the total from the same month last year, when 75 deaths were determined to be of illicit drug toxicity.
The latest update brings this year's total so far to 1,386 deaths.
Lisa Lapointe wrote that B.C. continues to see record-breaking numbers, citing unsafe supply as the main issue.
Additionally, there's another factor having an impact this year.
"Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province," Lapointe said in a statement Wednesday.
B.C.'s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, said in the statement the pandemic is having a "devastating effect" on the overdose crisis.
"This is a problem for all of us," she said in part.
"Now more than ever, we must remove the stigma of drug use and remove the shame people feel, which keeps them from seeking help or telling friends and family."
Earlier this year, a Vancouver doctor said the novel coronavirus is impacting drug users in several ways.
Many are choosing to use alone, due to physical distancing guidelines, and some are hesitant to go to hospital over fear of infection.
Additionally, border shutdowns are impacting supply, meaning local dealers are having to make their own products, and users are often not getting the dose they're used to from the usual sources.
The BC Coroners Service said Wednesday the latest testing data suggests an increase in the number of cases during the pandemic with extreme fentanyl concentrations, meaning more than 50 micrograms per litre.