The overdose drug crisis has claimed many lives across the province, and North Shore is no exception. Vancouver Coastal Health recorded four overdose deaths in 2012 in North Shore but that number grew to 20 in 2017.
It’s the illegally manufactured fentanyl that is driving this overdose emergency, according to Dr Mark Lysyshyn and Tanis Evans, who gave a presentation to the District of North Vancouver council on the subject.
Dr Lysyshyn said illegal drug overdose deaths had taken over homicide, suicide, motor vehicle accident and natural deaths as the leading cause of death in the province. He said men are overrepresented in the overdose deaths by a ratio of four to one, although the ratio evens out in the aboriginal population. The victims, he said, were also younger adults with many of them in their 20s and 30s.
The data from the North Shore may not paint the most accurate picture of the crisis because of its close proximity to Vancouver, which had the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the province, followed by Surrey and Victoria. “Vancouver has the highest mortality but these areas are connected, so it’s possible that people are developing substance issues in the North Shore, but they may go to Vancouver and die there,” Dr Lysyshyn said.
Evans said Vancouver Coastal Health was expanding its Opioid Agonist Therapy program that makes available Naloxone at key sites in the North Shore. VCH, she said, was also building a coastal substance abuse strategy with an aim to engage the community as well as the individuals and their families on the overdose crisis.
A latest report by BC Coroner Services looked into 872 drug overdose deaths. It found more than two-third of those deceased were using drugs alone. About one in every four deaths involved people, primarily males, working in trades or transport.