Northwest British Columbia saw record number of drug toxicity deaths in 2021 – Terrace Standard
Northwest British Columbia recorded one of the highest rates of deaths from illicit drug overdoses in the province in 2021, with Terrace recording the most deaths in the region.
There have been 15 deaths in Terrace Local Health Area (LHA), compared to nine in Smithers, eight in Upper Skeena LHA, five in Prince Rupert and three in Kitimat, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service today. today (February 9). ).
There were 41 total deaths in the North West – a new record and more than double the 18 deaths in 2020. The region had a rate of 53.2 deaths per 100,000 population, lower than only Vancouver (72.6 ) and Thompson Cariboo at 61.1 drug toxicity deaths per 100,000.
Across the Northern Health Authority, 146 people have lost their lives to toxic substances, up from 134 in 2020 and also the highest number of deaths ever recorded.
The picture is grim across the province, with an estimated 2,224 British Columbians dying of toxic drug poisonings in 2021, marking the worst year in the province’s history in the ongoing overdose crisis.
That’s an average of six deaths a day.
Five years after then-provincial physician Dr. Perry Kendall declared British Columbia’s first public health emergency in 2016, many trends have remained the same: the majority of deaths (83%) are occurred indoors and 71% of the deceased were elderly. 30 to 59 years old and mostly men.
No deaths were reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
Toxicology testing by the BC Coroners Service continues to point to the toxicity of illicitly sold drugs, the data shows. Fentanyl was detected in 83% of samples tested in 2021, while carfentanil, an opioid used to tranquilize large animals, was present in 187 results, nearly triple the number recorded in 2020.
Fifty percent of the samples in December tested positive for the benzodiazepine called etizolam, compared to 15 percent in July.
Benzodiazepines have created significant challenges for frontline workers and first responders because overdoses caused by these drugs cannot be reversed by naloxone, unlike opioid overdoses.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe called on policymakers at all levels of government to respond urgently – noting officials’ quick response to save lives due to the COVID-19 disease.
“Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in British Columbia for potential years of life lost,” she said.
“We can’t just hope things will get better. It is high time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the burgeoning illicit drug market and ensure, as a matter of urgency, province-wide access to a safe and reliable regulated drug supply.
In 2011, when overdose deaths were first recorded, 295 lives were lost. In 10 years, 10,817 people died.
— With files by Ashley Wadhwani