Two-thirds of those who have died in B.C.’s overdose crisis did not have contact with police over the past two years, figures from Statistics Canada found.
The numbers, released Tuesday, were the first part of the agency’s review of the social and economic conditions leading to a crisis that has killed thousands in the past few years.
Statistics Canada analyzed deaths between 2011 and 2016, the latter two years of which saw drug overdose figures jump sharply.
Since 2016, illicit drug overdoses have killed 8,000 people across the country and B.C. is home to the highest number of people dying of illicit drug overdoses over the last eight years.
Statistics Canada found that although most overdose victims did not have recent contact with police, those who did had frequent contact.
The agency said that in the two years preceding their deaths, 11 per cent of those who fatally overdosed in B.C. had four or more contacts with the police.
The numbers jumped up even higher for the three months before death, where one-third of those killed by a drug overdose were in contact with the police.
Of the crimes reported for those individuals, most were non-violent with shoplifting under $5,000 being the most common.
|Reasons for contact with the police in the 24 months prior to death. (Statistics Canada)
The agency found that 34 per cent of fatal overdose victims did not have a job for any of the five years preceding their deaths.
Another 26 per cent were employed for each of those five years, with the most common jobs being in construction, building maintenance, waste management and other support services.
Just over a quarter of those killed by the overdose crisis were hospitalized in the year leading up to their deaths. The most common reasons were substance-use related disorders, followed by mental health conditions, opioid poisonings and miscellaneous injuries and poisonings.