Stock photo licensed by Victoria Buzz

According to preliminary data from the BC Coroners Service, 1,827 British Columbians have lost their lives to the use of illicit drugs and the toxic drug supply in the past 10 months. 

Greater Victoria has recorded the third most deaths thus far in 2022 due to toxic drug use (131), just behind Vancouver (453) and Surrey (188). 

The Island health region has recorded at least 313 deaths attributed to the toxic drug supply this year.

“Despite the efforts of many, this public-health emergency continues to devastate families throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. 

“The increased toxicity and variability of the illicit drug supply has created an environment where everyone who uses substances is at risk.” 

“This vulnerability is even greater for individuals who live outside the urban centres where the limited number of safer supply programs are currently focused.”

These last 179 deaths are consistent with previous reporting throughout the first 10 months of 2022. An average of 182 people die every month from the toxic drug supply that is plaguing BC.

(BC Coroners Service)

An average of 5.8 people die every day of drug poisoning.

This reporting shows that the toxic drug crisis is affecting communities of all sizes. 

In 2022, 453 of these deaths occurred in Vancouver. That’s only 25% of the total annual death toll. 

Nanaimo as well as Prince George have already recorded more illicit drug deaths this year than ever before. Island Health and Northern Health are also steadily trending toward record breaking loss of lives due to the toxic drug crisis. 

(BC Cornoners Service)

When it comes to the leading cause of unnatural death in BC, illicit drugs have become the leading cause. The BC Coroners service says that since the public-health emergency of substance-related harms was first declared in April 2016, at least 10,688 British Columbians have lost their lives. 

“This is not a matter of choosing one approach over another,” Lapointe said. 

“The recommendations from both the Standing Committee on Health and two BC Coroners Service death review panels are clear: we must create a comprehensive continuum of care that supports people with substance-use disorders, and we must improve access to evidence-based options for treatment and recovery. 

“Most importantly, as those reports recommended, it is imperative that access to safer supply is available in all areas of the province.”

Shortly after the release of this data, Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions issued the following statement on the matter. 

“In October, we lost 179 people to the poisoned drug supply. The pain felt by those who have lost their loved ones to this public-health crisis is profound. My heart goes out to the families, friends and communities that are grieving these losses,” said Malcolmson.

“Our government is expanding and evolving our response to this public-health emergency as we strive to stop the terrible loss of life to the poisoned drug supply. While we have been adding new treatment and recovery services, expanding overdose prevention and working to end stigma about addiction, the increasing illicit drug toxicity has taken more lives.”

Malcolmson said a new publicly funded substance-use treatment facility in Kamloops will help curb these numbers as will Vancouver Island’s Coastal Sage Healing Centre for women and non-binary people to receive treatment via culturally safe and trauma-informed services.

“We keep acting on expert advice and voices of people with lived and living experience. Later this week, we will release the Adult Substance Use System of Care Framework, which was one of the recommendations of the BC Coroners Service’s 2022 Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths report.” 

“The framework was built on close collaboration and consultation with more than 300 partners and contributors across health and social sectors. It will guide the development of new models of substance-use care, where every person’s needs are met at every point of their recovery journey.”


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