Tuesday, May 28, 2024

211 dead in January: BC continues to be ravaged by toxic drug crisis


The BC Coroners Service revealed on Tuesday, March 7th that in January, at least 211 lives were claimed by the ongoing toxic drug supply crisis. 

This marks the eighth time the number of deaths due to drug poisoning surpassed 200 in the past 16 months. 

“Once again, our agency is reporting on preventable losses of life in heart-breaking numbers,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. 

“We are nearing the seventh anniversary of the declaration of the public-health emergency into substance-related harms, and the drug-poisoning crisis continues to cost lives and communities at an unprecedented rate.” 

“Toxic drugs pose a constant and ever-present danger to anyone who uses drugs. Anyone using any substance purchased on the unregulated illicit drug market is at risk of serious harm or death.”

Of the areas where the most deaths are taking place, Greater Victoria remains among the top three along with Metro Vancouver and Surrey.

Island Health recorded 39 of the 211 total deaths that occurred in January. 

The BC Coroners Service says that the number of deaths in January equated to close to 7 deaths every day. 

Seven out of ten deaths were of those between the ages of 30 and 59-years-old and statistics show that nearly 80% of the deceased are male. 

In total, at least 11,196 drug poisoning deaths have occurred since the toxic drug crisis was declared an emergency in April, 2016. 

As of January 31st, small amounts of drugs have been decriminalized in BC in a three year pilot project meant to end shame and stigma that could help save the lives of substance users.


“We know criminalization drives people to use alone. Given the increasingly toxic drug supply, using alone can be fatal,” said Jennifer Whiteside, BC’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions at the time of the historic announcement. 

“Decriminalizing people who use drugs breaks down the fear and shame associated with substance use and ensures they feel safer reaching out for life-saving supports.”

“This is a vital step to get more people connected to the services and supports as the province continues to add them at an unprecedented rate.”

The BC NDPs who launched this decriminalization hope that it shows tangible results in the effort to reduce the amount of deaths caused by the toxic drug crisis. 

Sonia Furstenau said in a statement regarding the number of deaths that she and the BC Greens want to see more action from the current administration. 

“All sides of the Legislature came together to study the toxic drug crisis,” said Furstenau. “We sat in the same room and heard from chiefs of police, the Chief Coroner, doctors, researchers, and people with lived experience.” 

“We heard over and over again how harm reduction is the best path forward to stopping people from dying. I call on this BC NDP government and the Official Opposition to come together and follow the evidence on protecting British Columbians from poisoned drugs.”

“We know from history where a war on drugs leads. Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past. We have the opportunity before us to drop the politics and follow the evidence on safe supply and save thousands of lives in the process.” 

Curtis Blandy

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