Opioid deaths in B.C increase from December to January

March 7, 2018 – Raja Shergill

New overdose numbers have been released for January 2018 and the numbers have risen compared to December 2017

According to the latest report from the B.C. Coroners Service, 125 people died of suspected illicit drug overdose in British Columbia in January 2018, up 25 per cent from December 2017.

Comparatively, opioid deaths are down from January 2017, but they still remain more than two times higher than any other causes of unnatural deaths in B.C.

The B.C Coroners service says that most of the fatalities that happen are when the users are all alone.

“One thing that is consistent in the data that we’re seeing are the majority of the people that are dying are using substances indoors, many of them are dying alone in private residences, in fact 65% of them are dying in private residences.” – Andy Watson, Spokesperson, BC Corners service

Numbers according to the Coroners

  •  the majority of the people dying are aged between 19 and 39 — accounting for 50% of the deaths.
  • Four out of every five deaths is a male
  • The three townships with the highest numbers of deaths are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.

Medication aimed at ending Opioid addiction

The Canadian Medical Association Journal has released a guideline aimed at curbing opioid addiction. The journal illustrated that  use of certain prescription medications can be more effective than using withdrawal management alone.

The CMAJ recommends the use of  buprenorphine – naloxone, which is sold under the brand name Suboxone, as the first line of treatment whenever feasible to reduce toxicity, morbidity and death. As a second line of treatment, methadone is recommended in individuals that respond poorly to Suboxone, or when Suboxone is not the preferred method of treatment.

There are, however benefits and downfalls to each medication as set out by the CMAJ.

The journal recommends using Suboxone first, and then move to methadone if necessary. Methadone may have better treatment retention when used with high frequency, long term users, but has several safety downfalls compared to Suboxone. According to a study conducted in the United Kingdom, Suboxone was six times safer than methadone.

Suboxone can be administered under the tounge, and can be distributed to user’s who don’t live near a practitioner, meaning they can take it at home under their own surveillance. This is especially beneficial to those living in rural and remote locations.

As a final line of treatment, if both Suboxone and methadone treatments are not providing results as outlined by a practitioner, a daily dose of slow release oral morphine administered by a specialist, may be recommended.

The guidelines do not provide help for patients dealing with the psycho-social aspects of drug use.

With files from, Joe Bardeck, Amar Bains, and Kori Sidaway