B.C. records 155 illicit drug toxicity deaths in February

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B.C. recorded its deadliest February yet for illicit drug toxicity deaths. The 155 deaths are more than double the fatalities in February 2020, according to the B.C. Coroners Service report. 

There were seven illicit drug toxicity deaths in the central Vancouver Island region and 12 so far this year. 

The average of 5.5 lives lost each day makes February the second consecutive month in which the average number of daily deaths was above five, according to the province.

“The number of deaths due to toxic illicit drugs in February highlights the ongoing critical risk to public health and safety from the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner. 

“The continued tragic and unprecedented rate of death in B.C. highlights the urgent need for a multi-faceted, evidence-based and accessible system of care for those experiencing problematic substance use.”

B.C. has recorded 329 illicit drug toxicity deaths so far this year and 81 per cent were male, according to the report. 

Fifteen per cent of the lives lost so far this year were people over 60 years old and 40 per cent were over 50.

“We know people are hurting now, and we must do more to stop this terrible surge in overdose deaths. Stigma and criminalization are driving people to use alone and the pandemic is pushing people further into isolation,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions. 

“The illicit drug supply chain is dramatically more toxic and, tragically, more lethal. The effects of two public health emergencies have taken an immense toll.”

The central island region has seen 23.6 illicit drug toxicity deaths per 100,000 so far this year, well below the provincial average of 38. The highest death rates were in the northeast and northwest of the province, Vancouver, northern Interior and Thompson Cariboo, the report said.

Increased variability and toxicity in the drug supply continues to significantly contribute to the overall number of suspected deaths, the province said. 

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