Thursday, June 20, 2024

Over 175 British Columbians have died of toxic drugs for 20 months in a row


On Friday, April 5th, the BC Coroners Service announced that at least 177 British Columbians died of toxic drug use. 

This data shows an 11% decrease in toxic drug deaths, year-over-year, since February, 2023 and a 12% decrease, month-over-month, since January. 

Regardless of this, it is the 20th consecutive month in which over 175 British Columbians have died of toxic drugs. 

Although there has been a slight decrease in the number of deaths year-over year and month-over-month, the BC Coroners Service says the province’s death rates remain significantly high. 

“February’s report from the BC Coroners Service marks the loss of 177 people to toxic drugs – a testament to the relentless challenges we face in this crisis,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions.  

“Behind each number was a person who loved and was loved, whose life was unfairly cut short.”

In February, 44 people on Vancouver Island lost their lives to this public health emergency, 11 of the deaths were attributed to the Greater Victoria area. 

Since the public health emergency was initiated in April 2016, at least 14,208 people in BC have died of toxic drugs. 

The BC Coroners Service says that fentanyl, or one of its derivatives continues to be the driver of the toxic drug crisis—often used in combination with cocaine, methamphetamine and/or other substances. 

Whiteside says that this is not a time for stigma surrounding drug use. She believes it is through understanding and funding solutions. 

“This crisis isn’t about moral judgments; it’s a serious health emergency that needs our ongoing attention and care,” she said.  

Last year, the BC government provided $1 billion in funding for these solutions with an additional $215 million set aside in Budget 2024.

Curtis Blandy

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