B.C reports 153 illicit drug deaths in November — Island Health sees downward trend

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B.C. reported 153 suspected drug toxicity deaths in November — an 89 per cent increase increase over the same time last year. This number is a seven per cent decrease over the number of deaths in October.The latest data is equal to five lives lost per day, according to BC Coroners Service.

The Coroners Service said Island Health has seen a downward trend in illicit drug deaths over the past several months, but all other health authorities continue to see high rates.

“As we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a toxic illicit drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “In the five years of this public health emergency, more than 6,500 families have experienced the grief and sadness of losing a loved one to the challenging medical condition of drug addiction.

This year there have been 1,548 illicit drug deaths in the province and the number of deaths in each health authority is at or near the highest ever monthly totals. Toxicology results suggest a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations from April to November this year, compared with previous months, according to BC Coroners Services.

Illicit drug toxicity death rates have been trending downward in people aged 19–59 over several months, according to BC Corners Services. Deaths in people over 60 years-old have trended upward.

“The impacts of COVID-19 have been deadly for those experiencing problematic substance use,“ Lapointe said. “Ensuring access to critical harm reduction measures including naloxone, supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention sites and drug checking services are essential if we want to prevent future deaths.”

She said providing access to pharmaceutical alternatives for people with substance use disorders will help to reduce suffering that results from the for-profit illicit drug market.

“Additionally, as recommended by coroners’ inquest juries and death review panels, an accessible, evidence-based and accountable treatment and recovery system is desperately needed to support those seeking these supports on their path to wellness,” Lapointe said. 

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