Fentanyl overdose crisis

More drug users died in British Columbia in October than ever before in the province’s history.

In a press release Thursday, the BC Coroners Service released preliminary data surrounding the toxic and illicit drug supply public health emergency in the province.

According to the report, the illicit drug supply claimed the lives of 201 British Columbians in October 2021, the most ever recorded in a month. 

There is an average of 6.5 deaths per day.

“It is heartbreaking that we continue to lose more lives to toxic drugs, and October was particularly tragic with over 200 deaths, the most ever recorded in a month. No words can replace a loved one lost,” Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said in a statement. 

“I feel British Columbia’s grief and frustration. Almost every person in the province knows someone whose life has been touched by the poisoned drug crisis. I am so sorry for each loss and send strength to everyone who is mourning someone they love.”

The first ten months of 2021 claimed 1,782 lives, representing the highest number of deaths due to drug toxicity ever recorded in the province in the calendar year. 

“It has been a very difficult year for so many people in British Columbia. We’ve endured floods, wildfires, heat waves and the confirmation of unmarked graves at former Indian Residential School sites,” Malcolmson said. 

“And on top of the direct challenges of COVID-19, the drug supply has become increasingly toxic.”

Since the substance-related harm public health emergency was declared in April 2016, more than 8,300 people have died as a result of drug toxicity.

According to the preliminary findings, 71% of those who died in 2021 of suspected drug toxicity were aged between 30 and 59. 79% were male. 

“In 2012, illicit fentanyl was present in 5% of the illicit drug toxicity deaths. This year, it has been detected in 85% of drug toxicity deaths – this increase is staggering” Malcolmson added.

“This is a health crisis, I cannot stress enough how urgent this emergency has become. ” Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner said.

“A comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe supply for the thousands of B.C. residents dependent on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punishment and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a critical step to reduce suffering and save lives.”

Sheila Malcolmson also provided information on staying safe.

“Please do not use alone. Download the Lifeguard app, buddy up, get your drugs checked, start with a small amount and go slowly. Please also keep naloxone close” she instructed.

“Find an overdose prevention or safe consumption site near you. They save lives.”

For more information, you can visit  the government’s Stop Overdose website.

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