Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘No signs of abating’: Nearly 200 British Columbians die of toxic drug crisis in July


BC’s drug crisis continues to impact communities throughout the province.

During the month of July, 198 lives were lost in BC from fatal encounters with toxic drugs that continue to run rampant throughout every British Columbian community.  

According to the province, this July was the 13th consecutive month in which over 190 people succumbed to the toxic drug crisis. 

According to Lisa Lapointe, BC’s Chief Coroner, at least 1,455 British Columbians have died in 2023 so far because of the toxic drug supply and the lack of resources for those who use substances. 

“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating,” said Lapointe. “We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply.” 

“The unregulated illicit market is highly unpredictable and continues to put thousands of lives at risk each month. Despite recommendations for the urgent expansion of a safer drug supply, very few have access to a stable, lower-risk alternative,” she added. 

Vancouver Island’s rate of death stands at the third highest in the province at 52.4 deaths per 100,000 residents. The Vancouver Coastal region being the second and the Northern Health Authority being first highest at 56.7 and 59.8 deaths per 100,000 people respectively.  

These rates of death are the highest the health authorities have ever posted. 

While there is undoubtedly a concentration of deaths that can be attributed to toxic drugs in urban areas like Greater Victoria, Vancouver and Surrey, more people are dying in sparsely populated areas than ever before, according to the BC Coroners Service — Central Vancouver Island, Northern Interior, Northwest and Greater Nanaimo being among these regions. 

Since a public health emergency was declared in April 2016, at least 12,739 British Columbians have been lost. 

“In just two days, we’ll recognize International Overdose Awareness Day,” Lapointe said. “This most sombre of occasions is an important opportunity to recognize all our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours who have been lost to unregulated drugs.”

“While we honour their memory and grieve alongside their loved ones, we must urge decision-makers to do more to stop these preventable deaths from occurring. The critical risks and losses of life resulting from this public health emergency deserve an urgent response. We must not accept the continued loss of six lives each and every day,” she continued. 

International Overdose Awareness Day lands on Thursday, August 31st this year and Island Health has activations all throughout Vancouver Island to help people remember those who they lost to this crisis.

There will be gatherings hosted in Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Courtenay, Sooke, Parksville, Ladysmith, Crofton, Campbell River and Salt Spring Island. 

These Island Health gatherings aim to give people a chance to remember and celebrate the lives of the 235 Vancouver Islanders who have lost their lives to toxic drugs in 2023 alone.

Curtis Blandy

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