(Stock photo)

Five years ago, BC declared a public health emergency due to the opioid-crisis.

This past March, the BC Coroners Service has reported that toxic illicit drugs have claimed the lives of 158 more British Columbians – raising the total number of deaths in the province for the year to 498.

The 158 new deaths show a 41% increase over the 112 deaths recorded in March 2020, and this also ties the previous high for March established in 2018.

Additionally, for the third month in a row, BC saw 5 people lose their lives to illicit drugs each day.

“Once again, we are reminded of the incredible toll that the toxic drug emergency is having on communities throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service.

“The illicit drug supply in British Columbia is volatile and unpredictable, and anyone using a substance from this unregulated market is vulnerable to serious injury or death.”

According to the BC Coroners Service, the drug supply continues to remain unstable and toxic; carfentanil was detected in 18 deaths in March, bringing the total number of carfentanil-related deaths in 2021 to 48.

There has also been an increased rate of benzodiazepine detection in drugs, up 15% in samples from July 2020 to 51% in samples from February 2021.

“There are no simple solutions to the toxic drug crisis this province is experiencing,” Lapointe said.

“Problematic substance use is widespread throughout our province, and evidence-based strategies, such as supervised consumption and drug-checking services, prescription alternatives and accessible and meaningful treatment and recovery options, are essential to reduce the death and suffering.”

According to the report, the number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in March 2021 was about 5.1 deaths per day, and in 2021 so far, 69% of those dying were aged 30 to 59.

Males have also accounted for 80% of deaths in 2021.

By health authority in BC, the highest death rates in 2021 are in Northern Health (57 deaths per 100,000 individuals) and Vancouver Coastal Health (45 per 100,000).

So far, no deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.

On April 22nd, Island Health warned of overdose spike on Vancouver Island, including Victoria.

Island Health also offered these safe practices for safer use:

  • Visit your local Overdose Prevention Service (OPS)
  • Have your drugs checked at your local OPS
  • Carry Naloxone and have an overdose response plan
  • Do a tester; try a little before your regular hit
  • Fix with a friend; if alone, be close to help
  • Try the LifeguardApp on your phone www.lifeguarddh.com
  • Contact the National Overdose Response Service at 1-888-688-6677
  • Stagger your use with a friend, so someone can respond if needed

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