BC Coroners Service Reports 1,782 Illicit Drug Poisoning Deaths in First 10 Months of 2021


British Columbia Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said 201 British Columbians died in October, which equates to about 6.5 deaths per day.

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The BC Coroners Service says an increasingly toxic and volatile supply of illicit drugs killed at least 201 people in October.

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That brings the grim total number of deaths to 1,782 in the first 10 months of 2021 – the highest number of drug toxicity deaths ever recorded in the province in a year.

Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner of British Columbia, expressed frustration at the government’s inability to respond to this health crisis and called the deaths of more than 200 British Columbians in October a “devastating loss.”

“In the sixth year of this public health emergency we are suffering a record number of deaths and I know this news will resonate with immense sadness among the thousands of families who have lost loved ones to this crisis. My thoughts continue to be with every family and community that mourns the loss of a loved one, ”she said.

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“It must become a much more urgent response.”

October is the first month in which 200 lives have been lost to illicit drugs in British Columbia, said Lapointe, the most lives in a single month. Last year was also a devastating year, with 1,716 lives lost.

More than 8,300 people have died from drug toxicity since the public health emergency regarding substance-related harm was declared in April 2016, according to the coroner.

Local data shows that the overall death rate in the province stands at 41.2 per 100,000 population, more than double the rate recorded in 2016 at 20.4%.

It had repercussions on all regions of the province and in all health authorities.

“This is a health crisis,” said Lapointe. “Although we are talking about numbers, we are really talking about people.”

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“I cannot stress enough the urgency of this emergency. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to a secure supply for the thousands of BC residents who depend on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punitive and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a crucial step in reducing suffering and saving lives.

The data also shows that 71% of people who died of suspected drug toxicity in 2021 were between the ages of 30 and 59, and 79% were men.

The death toll from illicit drug toxicity in October equates to about 6.5 deaths per day, the coroner said.

Fentanyl continues to be the number one toxicant, but Lapointe said they are finding more and more toxic substances in the illicit supply, such as methamphetamine and benzodiazepines. This “toxic cocktail” of substances is a major problem, because while naloxone can help a person with an opioid overdose, it cannot help with most other substances.

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The province has asked the federal government for an exemption to decriminalize illegal drugs. Lapointe said that while this is a critical step in ending the decades-long war on drugs, even if approved immediately, it will not end the unregulated drug market. and profit-driven, which continues to put people at risk.

“The only way is to provide access to a secure supply,” said Lapointe, who again expressed his perplexity at the lack of political action to end this ongoing crisis.

“We don’t have time to wait months and years to keep looking for proof that a secure supply will work. We know from studies that it works.

Lapointe said it is difficult to understand why this health crisis is not being addressed with the same response at all levels that was taken with the COVID-19 response.

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Drug toxicity is now the second leading cause of death in the province after cancer and the leading cause of death among young people.

Lapointe said Thursday that British Columbia would lose six more citizens and 40 or 50 more by the end of the year, which she called “unacceptable.”

Children of mothers involved in Moms Stop The Harm, a group pushing for safer drug laws to reduce overdose deaths.
Children of mothers involved in Moms Stop The Harm, a group pushing for safer drug laws to reduce overdose deaths. PNG

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson acknowledged that this year had been a tragic and “heartbreaking” year for overdose deaths and offered her condolences to family members facing grief.

At a press conference on Thursday, she said the government was doing “everything it can” to try to curb this crisis and connect people to the services they need by creating services, including adding more services. overdose prevention sites.

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British Columbia is the first province in the country to call on the federal government to decriminalize illicit drugs, which Malcolmson says will help end the stigma of drug use, a problem that drives many residents of Colombia. -British to consume alone.

“We are not doing anything,” she said, adding that work continues on decriminalization, safe supply and more education. “Would I like it to be faster?” Yes… we are going as fast as possible. We all feel the urgency of the crisis.

“It weighs on us all every day and makes us determined to do more. “

When asked why BC couldn’t use a compassion club model to provide safe medication to BC residents, Malcolmson said the only way the government could expand access was to implement safe supply through health authorities.

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“So my understanding is that the ideas are there to create a compassion club-like way to access a safe supply without a prescriber… but those are federally regulated and that’s where the decision lies. decision.”

Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said she has called repeatedly this year for the creation of an all-party emergency committee to tackle the illicit drug toxicity crisis in British Columbia, and the Liberals of the British Columbia have asked for the same.

“The political will is only lacking on the part of this government, and it is costing lives. Again, we do not see the BC NDP treating this crisis as an emergency, she said.

“We also called for an immediate expansion of the safe and regulated supply of drugs in British Columbia”

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