The BC Coroners Service says the number of illicit drug overdose deaths in the province were down slightly to start off 2019.
Spokesperson Andy Watson says it is a very small sample size, however, so he says they are cautiously optimistic.
There were 90 suspected drug overdose deaths in January, or about 2.9 per day, which is a 33 percent decrease over the previous year.
Watson says the numbers in the Cariboo also show a slight decline…
“As we look at the Northern Health Authority, of the 90 deaths reported so far for January of 2019, six of those were in the Northern Health Authority and eleven of those were in the Interior Health Authority,” he says.
“For all of 2018 we saw 90 deaths in total for the entire year, so that worked out to about an average, give or take, 7 1/2 deaths a month so it’s slightly lower than that but again we’re only looking at one month of data so I’m cautious on how much we want to look into that. By comparison, if we look at the Interior Health Authority, throughout the entire calendar year of 2018 we saw 231 deaths which was an average of 21 per month, so we are down year over year looking at 11 deaths for the first month of 2019.”
One again, Watson says fentanyl is the main killer as it, or its analogues, were detected in 87 percent of illicit drug overdose deaths in 2018.
He says one disturbing trend for this year is an increase in carfentanil…
“In January of 2019, carfentanil was detected in 13 of the overdose deaths. When you compare that to 2018 when we saw 35 total deaths for the entire year with carfentanil detected, obviously that is a big upswing,” Watson says.
“And I think maybe the other piece of interest, it was in 15 percent of all overdose deaths for the month of January of this year, so that is something we’re going to keep a close eye on.”
Watson says they hope to have the numbers for February by early April.