B.C.'s overdose crisis worsens with record-breaking calls in 2021

A total of 35,525 overdoses were reported during 2021, representing an average of 97 calls per day and a provincial increase of 31 per cent over the previous year, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services' latest year-end data.

Stephanie Ip 3 minute read January 13, 2022

The overdose crisis across B.C. continues to worsen with another record-breaking number of calls for help in 2021.

A total of 35,525 overdoses were reported during 2021, representing an average of 97 calls per day and a provincial increase of 31 per cent over the previous year, according to B.C. Emergency Health Services’ latest year-end data.

The number of overdose calls made in 2021 tops a previous record set in 2020, which saw 27,067 overdoses, and nearly triples what was reported in 2015 (12,263 overdoses).

The largest metropolitan areas across the province also account for the bulk of overdoses reported last year, with Vancouver experiencing a 23 per cent increase in overdoses with 9,993 reported in 2021 and Surrey reporting a 49 per cent increase with 3,674 reported.

Victoria, Kelowna and Abbotsford rounded out the top five B.C. cities that saw significant increases in overdoses reported. Victoria recorded 1,952 overdoses, Kelowna recorded 1,588, and Abbotsford recorded 1,368, an increase of 24, 36 and 46 per cent respectively.

While Courtney recorded just 467 overdoses in 2021, that figure represents the largest increase in any B.C. community and a 127 per cent spike over the previous year, a sign of the overdose crisis’ reach across the province.

Cranbrook also saw an 84 per cent increase (191 overdoses) and Mission reported an 82 per cent increase (397 overdoses), the second and third largest increases.

Meanwhile, Fort St. John saw a 22 per cent decrease in overdoses, with 97 reported in 2021, and Quesnel saw a 25 per cent decrease, with 157 reported last year.

According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service’s most recent data release in October 2021, a total of 1,782 individuals died of drug overdose in the first 10 months of 2021. It is the highest number of fatalities due to drug toxicity ever recorded in the province in a year.

Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner, noted that the crisis touched every part of the province.

“This is a health crisis,” said Lapointe. “Although we are talking about numbers, we are really talking about people.”

In 2016, B.C.’s government declared a public health emergency. Since the declaration was made, more than 8,300 people have died due to drug toxicity.

Data also notes that 71 per cent of those who have died last year were between the ages of 30 and 59, and that 79 per cent were men.

While Fentanyl remains the top toxic substance found in drug deaths, there are increasingly other substances in illicit supply such as methamphetamine and benzodiazepines. Though naloxone can help someone who is overdosing on opioids, it is not effective against other substances.

For more data on overdoses in 2021, visit the B.C. Emergency Health Services website.

sip@postmedia.com
twitter.com/stephanie_ip


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