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.


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.”


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.


“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.

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

Water in Lake Cowichan just fine, says acting mayor

Tim McGonigle said there is no truth to rumours of water advisories

Cowichan Caps help BCHL score commitment record

The BCHL saw 172 players commit to post-secondary institutions this past season

Murray Hatfield and Teresa present evening of magic and comedy streaming live May 29

The Duncan Volunteer Fire Department is inviting you to an evening of magic and comedy

Chemainus animal sanctuary needs your vote in nationwide contest

RASTA is up for $5,000 from Nutram; contest runs until May 31

Woman charged in fatal accident back in court on June 2

Sara Rosetta Thomas faces six charges in 2018 incident

B.C. legislature coming back June 22 as COVID-19 emergency hits record

Pandemic restrictions now longer than 2017 wildfire emergency

List of cancelled Cowichan Valley community events

An ongoing list of events that have been cancelled in the Cowichan Valley due to COVID-19

B.C.’s essential grocery, hardware store employees should get pandemic pay: retail group

Only B.C.’s social, health and corrections workers are eligible for top-ups

Edmonton, Vancouver and Toronto vying to be NHL hubs, but there’s a catch

The NHL unveiled a return-to-play plan that would feature 24 teams

As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

Schools in Tahsis and Gold River will open on June 1, with 30 per cent students expected to come in

B.C. sees 9 new COVID-19 cases, one death as officials watch for new cases amid Phase Two

Number of confirmed active cases is at 244, with 37 people in hospital

Illicit-drug deaths up in B.C. and remain highest in Canada: chief coroner

More than 4,700 people have died of overdoses since B.C. declared a public health emergency in early 2016

CMHC sees declines in home prices, sales, starts that will linger to end of 2022

CMHC said average housing prices could fall anywhere from nine to 18 per cent in its forecast

B.C. Paralympian named to Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame

Three-time world and Paralympic gold medalist Sonja Gaudet is part of 11-member class

Most Read