Chilliwack is on track to see a record number of overdose deaths in 2020 due to an ongoing supply of toxic drugs, according to the chief coroner. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

Chilliwack is on track to see a record number of overdose deaths in 2020 due to an ongoing supply of toxic drugs, according to the chief coroner. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress file)

It’s shaping up to be a record year for drug overdose deaths in Fraser East

Officials urging “extreme caution” for anyone using during dual health crisis

The year isn’t over yet but overdose deaths from illegal drugs were already higher at the end of November than in some of the worst years on record across Fraser East.

A total of 34 people died from drug overdoses in Chilliwack to the end of November 2020, according to the latest BC Coroner statistics putting it on track to surpass the record-high number of 37 fatalities it saw in 2018.

The entire Fraser East region had 109 suspected overdose deaths to the end of November, compared to 98 in all of 2018.

But the eastern part of the Fraser Valley is not alone with the terrible mounting toll, and it’s not the worst.

“Tragically, as we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a toxic illicit drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

There have been 1,548 illicit drug deaths to date in 2020 in B.C., and the number in each health authority is “at or near the highest ever” monthly totals.

To compare with nearby cities, Abbotsford saw 59 drug-toxicity deaths to the end of November 2020, while Surrey suffered 189. Langley had 35 and Maple Ridge saw 31.

Provincial health officials are urging “extreme caution” for those who use during the dual health emergencies of pandemic and overdose crisis, especially given the “increasingly toxic supply” of illegal drugs hitting B.C.

RELATED: The B.C. OD numbers for November aren’t good

The B.C.-wide total points to 153 deaths attributable to the overdose crisis in November 2020 alone – an 89-per-cent increase over November 2019 (81), and a seven per cent decrease over the number of deaths in October 2020 (164), according to BC Coroners Service.

The latest numbers mean that approximately five people per day perished last month.

Toxicology results indicate 13 per cent of the people who died with extreme fentanyl concentrations compared eight per cent from January 2019 to March 2020.

They point to “extreme fentanyl concentrations” from April to November 2020.

RELATED: An extra toxic supply hit the streets

There have been 1,548 illicit drug deaths to date in 2020 in B.C., and the number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest ever monthly totals.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have been deadly for those experiencing problematic substance use,” Lapointe said.

Pharmaceutical alternatives on the way for B.C. will be “of immense benefit” to reduce the harms and suffering resulting from the ‘for-profit’ illicit drug market, she said.


jfeinberg@theprogress.com


@CHWKjourno
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