Of the nearly 500 people who lost their lives to illicit drug overdoses in the first three months of 2021, 60 of those were in Surrey.
In the latest report from the BC Coroners Service released on Thursday (April 29), 20 people died in January, 26 died in February and a further 14 people lost their lives in March.
Surrey was only surpassed by Vancouver, which recorded 112 overdoses in the same time period.
Overdose deaths in Surrey have nearly doubled compared to the same time last year, when there were 36 between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2020. There were 37 fatal overdoses during the same period in 2019.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic, which wasn’t declared until partway through March 2020, has compounded the ongoing opioid crisis.
This comes as Surrey RCMP is urging caution following a cluster of overdose death in the city in the past week.
According to a news release issued Wednesday (April 28), between April 21 and April 27, police responded to six separate deaths believed to have been caused by “drug toxicity.”
“At this time, it is unknown if the deaths are related to the use of illicit substances from the same source, however, it is suspected that the deaths are linked to the use of fentanyl/heroin (opiates),” the release states.
In total, 498 people lost their lives due to overdoses in B.C. between Jan. 1 and March 31, 2021.
It’s the most fatal overdoses ever recorded in the first three months of the year
Deaths continue to largely take place in private residences and no fatalities were recorded at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites. Only Vancouver Coastal Health saw more deaths in other residences such as in hotels, motels, rooming houses, single room occupancy, shelters, social and supportive housing than private ones.
So far this year, the highest number of overdose deaths have been in Vancouver Coastal Health with 237 and Fraser Health with 171, making up 62 per cent of all fatalities this year.
Preliminary data showed that 84 per cent of deaths so far this year have have been related to fentanyl, compared to 86 per cent last year. The even more toxic carfentanil has been detected in 48 drug toxicity deaths so far this year, 18 of them in March. In all of 2020, the drug was found in 65 deaths.
– With files from Tracy Holmes, Katya Slepian