Today is Overdose Prevention Day, and in light of that, the BC Coroners Service released news regarding how serious the opioid epidemic has become.
At least 1,011 lives have been lost to a suspected toxic drug supply in BC between January and June—a shocking record number so far in a year.
In 2020, 1,711 lives were lost.
According to the data, 159 British Columbians died due to drug toxicity in June– the ninth consecutive month that drug toxicity has contributed to more than 150 deaths.
Of the deaths, 71 per cent were aged between 30 and 59, and 80 per cent were men.
The highest number of illicit drug-toxicity deaths were in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health (342 and 283 deaths), making up 62 per cent of all such deaths during this period, BC Coroners Service reported.
Drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 19 and 39, according to the latest report.
There are 39 deaths per 100,000 British Columbians.
BC’s Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe, said this data highlights how serious of a public health crisis this is.
“The data released today highlights the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a wide-scale response,” Lapointe said.
“This includes removing barriers to safe supply, ensuring timely access to evidence-based affordable treatment and providing those experiencing problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce risks and save lives.”
The province is looking towards more measures to help combat the epidemic.
In February, BC asked the federal government and Health Canada to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.
The opioid crisis was first declared a public health emergency in 2016.
In the case of what’s in the supply, BC Coroners Service reports that fentanyl and carfentanil continue to contribute to 85 per cent of the deaths so far in 2021. Cocaine, methamphetamine and etizolam are also present in toxicology reports.
Meanwhile, prescribed safe supply has not played a role in drug toxicity and there have been no recorded deaths at overdose prevention sites, further indicating the role harm reduction has played in saving lives.
“Today is International Overdose Awareness Day; a day in which we remember and mourn the family members, friends, and neighbours we’ve lost to drug toxicity,” Lapointe said.
“To the thousands of BC families grieving the loss of a beloved family member, I extend my heartfelt condolences and my hope that the stories you’ve shared will continue to influence positive change.”