Six British Columbians died of drug toxicity on average each day in July

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Over 1,200 people have died as a result of toxic drugs in the first seven months of 2021, according to the latest report from the BC Coroners Service. 

The 184 deaths recorded in July made it the second-deadliest month in B.C. for drug toxicity and means an average of 5.9 people died each day. The Oceanside local health area has recorded six illicit drug toxicity deaths so far this year.

“The deaths of another 184 of our community members in July is a stark reminder of the tragic and unrelenting trajectory of this public health emergency,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “We know that the loss of each of these individuals leaves a devastated circle of family and friends who are grieving the preventable death of a cherished loved one.”

July was the 17th consecutive month in which over 100 people died as a result of the toxic drug supply in B.C.

Fentanyl and its analogues continue to be significant drivers in the public health emergency, being detected in 86 per cent of all illicit drug toxicity deaths this year and last, according to the report.

Seventy-two per cent of the deaths this year were people between the age of 30 and 59 — 79 per cent were male.

“Clearly, the scale of this public health emergency requires an urgent, co-ordinated and multi-faceted health-system response,” Lapointe said. “Those at risk of dying come from all walks of life and live in every part of our province. If we truly want to save lives, an accessible range of solutions that reflects the breadth and scope of this crisis is urgently needed.”

Lapointe said drug-checking services, safe consumption sites, access to safe supply and the implementation of evidence-based standards of practice for the treatment of problematic substance use are all important to prevent more drug toxicity deaths.

The report found the highest death rates were in Vancouver Coastal Health (47.2 deaths per 100,000 individuals) and Northern Health (45.6 per 100,000). Overall, the rate in B.C. is 39.7 deaths per 100,000 individuals. Oceanside’s rate is 34.3 per 100,000. Deaths due to drug toxicity remain the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C.

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