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. Events are included where treatment by ambulance crews included use of Naloxone (the antidote for an opioid overdose) or where the 9-1-1 dispatch code was consistent with possible drug overdose and the corresponding paramedic impression codes indicated use of illegal drugs. 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 7 events/100,000 in early 2015 to almost 28 events/100,000 by summer 2018. There are notable peaks in November 2016, May 2017, and July 2018. A brief dip in rates occurred from October to February 2017. More recently, the rate of events has steadied since August 2018 at 25 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, and have steadied since; while rates in males rose sharply early in the year, peaked in July, the highest to date, and have remained high and steady.
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.
Refer to the Paramedic Attended Overdose Events data notes for more information about the indicators including definitions, data sources, and limitations.
Data provided by the BC Emergency Health Service.