The Cariboo region continues to make up a portion of the areas with the highest drug toxicity death rates in the province.
Data released today by the BC Coroners Service shows that Northern Health, for a third straight month, had the highest rate among all health authorities in March.
It was 52.3 per 100,000 people.
Interior Health was third at 44.9
The Thompson-Cariboo health service delivery area, which includes Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, had the 2nd highest death rate among health service delivery areas at 73.7 deaths per 100, 000.
Only Vancouver was higher at 75.
The Norhern Interior, which includes Quesnel, was 4th out of 16 at 56.8 deaths per 100,000.
165 people passed away in BC in March due to a suspected overdose, which equates to more than 5 people per day.
The BC Coroners Service says the 165 was down by 5 percent from both March of 2021 and last month.
“It is encouraging to see a decrease in the number of lives lost in February and March relative to previous months, but we know the illicit drug market continues to present enormous risks to our community members,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
“We encourage people using substances to exercise great care, use only a small amount first, and make sure someone is nearby to provide emergency aid if necessary. The volatile illicit market remains unreliable and unpredictable, and continues to take the lives of loved ones across the province.”
The Coroners Service noted that 77% of those dying so far in 2022 are between the ages of 30 and 59.
“Toxic illicit drugs are taking lives and inflicting devastating impacts on people from all walks of life,” Lapointe said.
“Along with the obvious tragedy of fatal outcomes, survivors of drug-toxicity emergency events often experience serious long-term health challenges. I am hopeful that implementation of the Death Review Panel’s recommendation to significantly and rapidly expand access to safer supply across the province will begin to diminish the terrible harms people in B.C. are currently experiencing.”
Between July 2020 and March 2022, etizolam was found in 40% of illicit drug toxicity deaths. It is a benzodiazepine analogue and non-opioid sedative that does not respond to naloxone, which creates life-saving challenges for first responders.