Overdoses in British Columbia: 155 more people died of illicit drug toxicity in February, coroner’s report says


VANCOUVER – For 11th consecutive month, more than 100 people have died of illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia

The province’s coroner released the data on Wednesday, revealing that 155 people died in February of suspected drug toxicity. That averages 5.5 lives lost each day and marks the second consecutive month with an average number of daily deaths greater than five, according to the coroner.

The latest figures also marked the highest number of overdose deaths on record in February and a 107% increase from the same month last year.

“The death toll from toxic illicit drugs in February highlights the continuing critical risk to public health and safety from the illicit drug market,” Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner of British Columbia, said in a statement .

“I offer my sincere condolences to all those who have lost a family member or loved friend to substance use. British Columbia’s tragic and unprecedented death rate underscores the urgent need for a multi-faceted, evidence-based, accessible system of care for those with problematic substance use.

The latest data also showed an age-based trend that officials have noted in recent years. While fatal overdoses still tend to affect a younger population, 40% of deaths in 2021 so far have been in people aged 50 and over. And 15% of the total deaths were in people aged 60 and over.

Most of the deaths are in Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, according to the coroner’s report.

Of the 155 deaths recorded in February, carfentanil, a deadlier analogue of fentanyl, was found in 18 of the cases. That topped the January 14 figure, which broke a record set in April 2019.

“These data underscore the alarming increase in the toxicity of the illicit drug supply across British Columbia,” said Lapointe.

“Across the province, the risk of serious harm or death is very real for anyone using a substance purchased on the illicit market. recovery services they need.

Lapointe is not alone in calling for better access to a safe and regulated supply of pharmaceutical narcotics.

Drug users and policy advocates also say the expansion of this program has the potential to reduce the number of toxic drug deaths very quickly.

“It doesn’t matter if you use it every day or once a year, it’s always the same death. And we can’t let this continue,” said attorney Karen Ward.

The province estimates that approximately 77,000 people in British Columbia have been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder, but only 3,329 have access to hydromorphone, a safer alternative to toxic street drugs.

Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, said the government intends to dramatically increase that number, but it will take time to train more medical professionals to provide the appropriate prescriptions.

“British Columbians can be proud of the way we are pushing the boundaries and getting this work done before the rest of the country,” said Malcolmson. “And we are determined to do it as quickly and safely as possible. “

So far this year, 329 people have died from overdoses of illicit drugs, according to the most recent overdose data.

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