Island Heath has issued a health advisory after a spike in overdose deaths, and recommends strategies, including using naloxone (pictured), when dealing with an overdose victim. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)

Island Heath has issued a health advisory after a spike in overdose deaths, and recommends strategies, including using naloxone (pictured), when dealing with an overdose victim. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)

Island Health issues advisory after spike in drug overdoses, Cowichan included

11 overdose deaths on the Island in January, eight in February, and a whopping 18 in March.

Island Health has issued a health advisory after a substantial spike recently in fatal and non-fatal overdoses related to illicit drugs on the Island, and across B.C.

According to a report by the B.C. Coroners Service, a total of 113 people in B.C. died of suspected overdoses in March, which made it the deadliest month for overdoses in a year.

The overdoses in March were, on average across B.C., a 61 per cent increase from February, according to the report, and the increases occurred in every health authority in the province, with the spike in the Island Health region one of the highest at 80 per cent.

RELATED STORY: DUNCAN’S OVERDOSE PREVENTION SITE TO MOVE THIS FALL TO NEW WELLNESS CENTRE

The report offers no breakdown of the different regions on Vancouver Island, including the Cowichan Valley but, overall, there were 11 overdose deaths on the Island in January, eight in February, and a whopping 18 in March.

Dr. Shannon Waters, the medical health officer for the Cowichan Valley, said there may be a connection between the spike in overdoses and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“But it’s difficult to say in such a short time span, and it will take time to determine if their are any trends in the longer term,” she said.

“The impacts of the pandemic in regards to social distancing and self isolation has affects on everyone, including those who use substances, and the risk factor for those who use drugs alone are exacerbated with social distancing. We’re trying to gather as much evidence as we can.”

RELATED STORY: WEBSITE ESTABLISHED TO HELP HOME DRUG USERS STAY SAFE IN COWICHAN

Asked about the belief of some that the spike in overdose deaths may be connected to the money the senior levels of governments have been providing to help people and businesses through the health crisis, Waters said there is no evidence of that at this time.

“We do know there are individuals in the population who do use substances, and there is a lot of stress out there right now that causes some people to turn to drugs, but it’s too early to say right now what has caused the increase in overdose deaths,” she said.

“There may be other factors involved, but it’s too early to say right now.”

According to the coroner’s report, the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities have had the highest number of deaths due to overdoses (86 and 68 deaths, respectively) in 2020, making up 59 per cent of all such deaths in B.C. during this period.

The report also points out that from January through March, 86 per cent of overdose deaths in the province occurred inside, with 57 per cent in private residences and 29 per cent in other residences, and nine per cent occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks and other areas.

RELATED STORY: B.C.’S OVERDOSE PREVENTION STRATEGY SETS BLUEPRINT FOR REST OF WORLD: STUDY

“In 2020, 73 per cent of those dying were aged 19 to 49, while in 2019 and 2018, 68 per cent were in this age range,” the report said.

“Males accounted for 76 per cent of deaths in 2020 to date, consistent with 2019 (76 per cent) and slightly lower than in 2018 (80 per cent). No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.”

According to Island Health’s health advisory, 911 should be called immediately if someone is overdosing, and those present should provide rescue breathing and give the victim naloxone if it’s available.

The advisory also recommends that drugs should be checked by personnel at the local overdose prevention site; users should try a little before taking their regular hit; users should take the drugs with a friend and, if alone, be close to help.



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

B.C. overdoses

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An Island Health graph showing COVID-19 cases in the central Island by local health area between Dec. 27 and Jan. 23. (Island Health image)
Central Island’s COVID-19 case spike shifting, says Island Health

Cowichan Valley has seen the highest number of cases, but Nanaimo and south Island seeing upticks

Extensive water on No. 4 and 5 at the Mount Brenton Golf Course following heavy rains earlier this month. (Photo submitted)
Mount Brenton Golf Course does a booming business in 2020

A total of 15,000 more rounds played than the previous year

The memorial site for double-murder victims Nellie Williams and Fran Shurie, located in Charles Hoey Park, will be allowed to stay for another two months after the City of Duncan changed its policy on temporary memorials. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Duncan allows temporary memorials to stay longer

Policy change related to memorial for double-homicide victims in city park

Snow is sticking to the ground on Malahat Drive at Shawnigan Lake Road. (Drive BC)
Snowfall warning issued for Malahat

10 centimetres of snow expected between Goldstream and Mill Bay

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

(Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
The Pachena Bay shoreline in 2013. (Twitter/Ateachersaurus)
This week in history: 9.0 magnitude quake struck under what is now called Vancouver Island

According to First Nations elders, the 9.0-magnitude quake in 1700 CE kick-started a tsunami

B.C. Premier John Horgan speaks at B.C. legislature on the province’s mass vaccination plan for COVID-19, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
COVID-19 quarantine not an option for B.C., John Horgan says

Apres-ski parties increase risk, not interprovincial travel

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Worker at Swartz Bay terminal on Monday, January 20, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
Former BC Ferries employee alleges he was fired because of his race

Imraan Goondiwala has been granted a BC Human Rights Tribunal hearing

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker have been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s Civil Emergency Measures Act for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
B.C. couple who travelled to Yukon for COVID vaccine ineligible for 2nd dose until summer

The province is ensuring those eligible to receive the vaccine get the second shot within 42 days

(File)
Mask dispute in court leaves Vancouver cop with broken leg

Man allegedly refused to put on a mask and resisted arrest

(Kraft Dinner/Twitter)
Kraft Dinner launches candy-flavoured mac and cheese just in time for Valentine’s Day

Sweet and cheesy treat will be here just in time for the cheesiest holiday of the year

SAR crews worked late into the night Tuesday to rescue an injured snowboarder in North Vancouver. (Facebook/North Shore Rescue)
Complicated, dangerous rescue saves man in avalanche near Cypress Mountain

North Shore SAR team braves considerable conditions to reach injured snowboarder

Most Read