British Columbia Drug Toxicity Deaths Rise As World Marks Overdose Awareness Day


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – British Columbia lost 1,011 lives to drug toxicity between January and June of this year.

The total is the highest on record in the first six months of a calendar year, according to the Chief Coroner of British Columbia.

Lisa Lapointe says the deaths are a reminder that the supply of toxic illicit drugs “remains a significant continuing threat to public health and safety in communities” across the province.

“The data released today underscores the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a large-scale response. This includes removing barriers to a safe supply, ensuring timely access to affordable, evidence-based treatment, and providing those suffering from problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce drug abuse. risks and save lives, ”she added.

According to the latest figures, 159 British Columbians died of drug toxicity in June. This is the ninth consecutive month that the number of deaths has exceeded 150.

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The province says drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in British Columbia among people aged 19 to 39. It remains the leading cause of unnatural deaths in the province.

Seventy-one percent of illicit drug toxicity-related deaths reported in 2021 were between the ages of 30 and 59. Eight out of 10 were men.

The province says the highest number of such deaths were in Fraser River and Vancouver Coast health regions.

The new data comes as the world marks International Overdose Awareness Day.

“Those who died counted and their loss is deeply felt, and we must continue to urge those in positions of influence in our province and the country to take urgent action to implement measures to avoid further suffering. and unnecessary deaths, ”said Lapointe.

The BC Coroners Service says the illicit drug supply in British Columbia is increasingly toxic, with extreme levels of fentanyl and carfentanil appearing more frequently in toxicology tests.

BC Health Minister Adrian Dix on Tuesday recognized Overdose Awareness Day and added that because the toxic drug supply has had a huge impact on communities, “we have to do everything. what we can and will continue to do to separate people from this poison supply by providing prescribed and safer medicines. option.

Additionally, the best doctor in the province, Dr Bonnie Henry, said the impact of the toxic drug supply “does not go unnoticed, for all of us that this is an ongoing crisis” .

“Stop delaying the introduction of a secure supply”

Meanwhile, Leslie McBain with Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH) says governments must stop blocking safe supply and act to provide it to drug addicts.

“This year, I just lost my patience. I have lost patience with the lack of action – by government, federal and provincial – on a safe supply of drugs. We have done next to nothing to implement secure supply. And of course, people are dying at a higher rate this year than ever before in history, ”she said.

In a “symbolic gesture,” McBain said the MSTH, the Drug User Liberation Front, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users and other drug user groups in British Columbia will distribute heroin, clean and tested cocaine and methamphetamine.

“It can make a lot of people angry… people might think we are crazy for doing such a thing. But on the other hand, you know, anything provocative gets the needle moving somehow. We really hope this shows the need for a secure regulated supply.

“The goal is just to raise awareness. “

McBain’s only son Jordan died of an overdose in 2014 – she points out that the illicit supply of drugs is produced without any concerns for safety or consistency.

Indigenous leaders in British Columbia call for more action

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs is calling on the province to do more to address the factors that lead people to drugs and addiction.

UBCIC says it wants to see “effective and immediate action” to tackle the socio-economic factors that it believes make First Nations people more vulnerable to substance abuse and addiction.

Leaders urge the province to immediately make access to culturally appropriate mental health and addiction services available.

“Indigenous peoples continue to be disproportionately affected by the opioid overdose crisis and have for too long borne the brunt of drug addiction, addiction and unhealthy coping mechanisms linked to the colonial legacy of trauma. and intergenerational discrimination, ”UBCIC said in a statement.

He notes that the pandemic has exacerbated the impacts of the overdose crisis, leading to more deaths.

With 2021 on track to be “another year of tragic deaths,” Indigenous leaders say it’s crucial the BC government provide Indigenous peoples with better access to things like naloxone, drug sites. supervised injection, services to safely dispose of unused prescriptions, and treatment programs that emphasize Indigenous culture and values.

In 2020, more than 1,700 people died of illicit drug overdoses, a 74% increase from the previous year, according to the coroner.

“Today reminds the province that it must work to raise the profile of the overdose crisis and reduce the negative stigma surrounding drugs used to discriminate against Indigenous peoples,” UBCIC said.

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