Penticton is currently on track to have a record number of overdose deaths in 2021.
According to information from the BC Coroner’s Service, there were a total of 15 fatal overdoses in Penticton between January and June 2021. The death toll in the first six months of 2021 is close to the yearly average of 15.6 fatal overdoses in the Penticton local health area over the last five years.
Five of 2021’s deaths came within a single two-month period between May and June.
In 2016, the last year there were single-digit overdose fatalities in Penticton, seven people died due to drug toxicity.
In 2017, there were 16 fatal overdoses, in 2018 there were another 16, while in 2019 there were 22 and 17 in 2020.
One aspect that may be involved in the increase in deaths is a growing trend of higher concentrations of fentanyl in the supply of drugs.
According to the B.C. Coroner’s Services, the number of cases across the province since April 2020 that have found extreme fentanyl concentrations has risen to 14 per cent of fatal overdoses, from eight per cent over Jan. 2019 to Mar. 2020.
As recently as March 2021, Interior Health had issued a drug alert for methamphetamines that had been found to be contaminated with fentanyl in Penticton.
Those are only the overdoses that result in deaths. From January to May of 2021, there were 279 overdose calls that required emergency responders to attend to the scene.
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