In November of last year, the CBC wrote an article that highlighted new figures by the BC Coroners Service which point to the astounding number of overdose-related deaths in the province.
According to chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, 128 people died of an illicit drug overdose in November alone, averaging at more than four people a day. In December, it rose to 142 people. The official count of deaths annually added up to 914 people. On record, this was the highest number of overdose related deaths ever with an 80% increase.
The Fentanyl Crisis
Fentanyl is an opioid that is 100 times more potent than heroin, according to Lapointe. It’s been a huge contributor to the increase in deaths related to overdoses. Lapointe also says it’s created a dependency crisis that will not be resolved anytime soon.
Since the drug is highly potent, drug traffickers can sell more, an attractive choice. However, only a small dose is lethal enough to kill. As of now, the BC Coroners Service will be unable to say how many fentanyl deaths made up the number of overdose deaths and will be unable to tell if the spike in November and December is due to a newer and more dangerous version of fentanyl known as carfentanil, until mid-march when analyses and investigations are complete.
Call for Action
The B.C Health minister Terry Lake announced that more money for treatment beds is coming in the New Year. BC has allocated more than $16 million in new money to put towards this crisis.
As a response, the province is also funding 50 new intensive outpatient treatment spaces and is covering the cost of medical drug therapies for low-income citizens.
For more long-term planning, the province must look at heroin treatment options to reduce deaths. Lake also urges that the federal government step up and regard the scale of this issue, which is now considered a public health emergency.