Friday, May 17, 2024

‘No town, neighbourhood or family is immune’: 1,600 dead from toxic drugs this year in BC


In August, preliminary reports from the BC Coroners Service suggest that at least 174 people have died due to taking toxic drugs.

This is the lowest number of deaths in a single month since last summer. For context, 198 died in July and 184 died in June in the two months prior to this latest statistic. 

In the combined first eight months of 2023, over 1,600 people have now died from drugs. 

“We are continuing to lose members of our communities in heartbreaking numbers as a result of the toxicity of the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. 

“No town, neighbourhood or family is immune from this crisis and as the years of this public-health emergency go by, more and more British Columbians are experiencing the devastating loss of a friend, colleague or family member to the illicit-drug supply.”

Despite this being the lowest number of recorded deaths in just over a year, the BC Coroners Service says caution should be exercised when drawing conclusions of progress based on one month of data. 

Data shows that smoking toxic drugs is the most dangerous and deadly way to consume illicit drugs — two-thirds of deaths this year stemmed from the deceased smoking the drugs that killed them.

According to the BC Coroners Service, this pattern calls for more action to be taken by the government. They say BC needs more spaces for people who use drugs to smoke them safely.

Unregulated drug toxicity is and has been the leading cause of death in BC for people between the ages of 10 and 59-years-old.

Death by homicides, suicides, accidents and natural diseases combined don’t even surpass the number of those who have died from toxic drugs. 

The BC Coroners Service says that at least 12,929 British Columbians have died since the provincial public-health emergency was first declared in April 2016.


“The relentlessness and scale of this public-health crisis requires a proportionate response,” Lapointe said. “The BC Coroners Service continues to recommend urgent, collaborative action on the part of ministries and health authorities to co-ordinate a provincewide continuum of care that saves lives.” 

“Improvements in the quality and reach of harm reduction and evidence-based treatment services are essential, as is the critical need to ensure that those at risk of dying can access safer, regulated drugs. If we cannot implement these changes, our loved ones will continue to die,” she continued. 

This latest monthly death count comes on the heels of an announcement of further scale-backs from the province on the decriminalization policy that became law earlier this week.

Now, drug users will be arrested if they are near parks and playgrounds while taking illicit drugs. 

According to the province, more restrictions on their decriminalization policy may be coming later this fall. 

Curtis Blandy

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