B.C. paramedics attend a range of overdose/poisoning events every day. This indicator focuses on illegal drug overdose events not including prescription drugs or alcohol. An algorithm is used to identify overdose events and is based on paramedic impression codes as well as 9-1-1 dispatch codes.
The majority of people who experience an overdose and are attended by paramedics survive; while, for those who died, in many cases 9-1-1 was not called. Thus, this indicator, displayed as a monthly rate, represents largely non-fatal overdose events.
The provincial rate of paramedic attended overdoses events (events per 100,000 BC residents) has increased 4 fold in less than three years, from 8 events/100,000 in January 2015 to almost 31 events/100,000 by March 2019. There are notable peaks in November 2016, May 2017, and July 2018. A brief dip in rates occurred from October to February 2017. While the rate of events has steadied in late 2018, March 2019 saw the highest rate ever at 31 events/100,000.
Paramedic attended overdose rates among men are much higher than in women, and drive the severe rates seen in BC; nonetheless, rates in women are also considered unacceptably high. In general, trends over time are similar between men and women. However, in 2018, overdose event rates in women rose gradually early in the year, peaked in May, stabilized in late 2018, but have increased sharply in early 2019; while rates in men rose sharply early in 2018, peaked in July, stabilized in late 2018, but have increased sharply in early 2019. March 2019 featured the highest rates seen to this date among men and women.
Individuals between the ages of 19 and 59 have the highest overdose rates. Considering the age and sex breakdown of overdose events in BC, over the most recent year of data, over 40% of all events are in 19-39 year old males and an additional almost 25% are in males 40-59 years. Some differences exist between the health authorities in the distribution of overdose events by age and sex which can be explored in this interactive report.