British Columbia records record loss of life due to drug toxicity

An increasingly toxic and volatile supply of illicit drugs claimed at least 201 deaths in October and 1,782 lives in the first 10 months of 2021, according to the latest preliminary data released by the BC Coroners Service.

“Today is a heartbreaking milestone for our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner of British Columbia. “The death of over 200 members of our community in one month from toxic drugs is 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 a loved one to this crisis. My thoughts continue to be with every family and community that mourns the loss of a loved one. ”

October is the first month in which 200 lives have been lost to illicit drugs in British Columbia. More than 8,300 people have died from drug toxicity since the public health emergency regarding substance-related harms was declared in April 2016.

The impacts of the illicit drug crisis are being felt in every community in British Columbia. While the highest number of deaths continues to be recorded in urban centers like Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, death rates per 100,000 population are at record levels in every health authority. , including the Vancouver coast (47.6), the interior (45.0) and the north (44.8). The overall death rate in the province stands at 41.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, more than double the rate recorded in 2016 (20.4).

“This is a health crisis,” said Lapointe. “I cannot stress enough the urgency of this emergency. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to a secure supply for the thousands of British Columbia 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 main additional preliminary findings are presented below. Data is subject to change as additional toxicological results are received:

  • 71% of people who died of suspected drug toxicity in 2021 were between 30 and 59 years old, and 79% were men.

  • The number of deaths linked to the toxicity of illicit drugs in October 2021 is equivalent to approximately 6.5 deaths per day.

  • By health service delivery area (HSDA), in 2021 the highest death rates were in Vancouver, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest, North Vancouver Island and Fraser East.

  • By Local Health Zone (LHA), in 2021 the highest death rates were in Upper Skeena, Lillooet, Merritt, North Thompson and Enderby.

  • Deaths from illicit drug toxicity in British Columbia are second only to cancer in terms of years of life lost. The median age of people who died from illicit drug toxicity in 2020 was 43.

  • Analysis shows no indication that prescribed safe supplies contribute to illicit drug-related deaths.

Learn more:

Illicit Drug Overdose Death Report (Data as of October 31, 2021): statistical / drug- illicit.pdf

Illicit Drug Toxicity: Drug Data Report Type (Data as of October 31, 2021): / coroners-service / statistics / type-illicit-drug.pdf

BCCDC Knowledge Update on Hydromorphone and Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths: 2021.09.15_Knowledge Update_ Hydromorphone and Drug Toxicity Deaths.pdf (

To the Heart:

Stop Overdose BC:

British Columbia Center on Substance Use:

Risk Mitigation Prescribing Guidelines in the Context of Dual Public Health Emergencies: -Dual-Public-Health -Urgences-v1.5.pdf

Lifeguard app:

BC Center for Disease Control overdose response indicators:

BC Center for Disease Control factsheet on etizolam:

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