The B.C. Coroners Service says the number of illicit drug deaths was down 30 per cent in B.C. for the first five months of 2019.
The coroner says there were 86 and 84 illicit drug-related deaths in April and May respectively, down from 137 and 116 for the same months in 2018.
Overall, there have been 462 illicit drug toxicity deaths in the first five months, down 30 per cent from the 651 over the same period last year.
The coroner notes that the data is subject to change and totals for 2019 will likely increase as post-mortem testing results are received, but says it is “a sign for cautious optimism.”
More than two-thirds of the illicit-drug deaths this year involved people aged 30 to 59 years, and men account for almost four in every five of all illicit-drug deaths over the same period, the coroner says.
Almost nine in every 10 illicit drug deaths occurred inside and fentanyl was detected in most (83 per cent) of the cases.
Although overall the number of fatalities is down, the number of deaths linked to carfentanil, which is reportedly 100 times stronger than fentanyl, is up compared with last year.
The coroner says carfentanil was detected in 102 of the 383 fentanyl-detected deaths this year. There were 35 carfentanil-detected deaths in 2018.
No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
Meantime, healthcare workers say they are responding to an increasing number of overdoses involving opioids contaminated with benzodiazepines, restricted substances normally used to treat anxiety.
One of the problems is that benzodiazepines don’t respond to the opioid antidote naloxone.