British Columbia

3 people still dying every day after using illicit drugs, says B.C.'s chief coroner

The BC Coroners Service is reporting some of the highest numbers of deaths due to illicit drug overdoses in the four years since the province declared a public health emergency.

Lisa Lapointe says B.C.'s numbers are still the among the highest in Canada

B.C. has been at the forefront of Canada's opioid overdose crisis and health professionals say providing more treatment options will save lives. (David Maialetti/Associated Press)

The BC Coroners Service is reporting some of the highest numbers of deaths due to illicit drug overdoses in the four years since the province declared a public health emergency.

In a statement sent out Wednesday, the service said there have been 112 deaths recorded in March alone. In April that number climbed to 117, marking the first time B.C. has recorded over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths in back-to-back months since November and December 2018.

"We remain in a public health emergency, with more than three British Columbians dying each day from illicit drug toxicity deaths," said Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.

Lapointe also said Illicit drug toxicity death rates in B.C. are still the highest of any jurisdiction in Canada, with Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria recording the highest number of deaths in the province.

2020 deaths

To date, the coroners service has recorded 382 illicit drug deaths in B.C. 

The more than 100 deaths in each month of March and April show about a 40 per cent increase over the same period last year.

  • In April 2020, there were 117 deaths compared to 84 in the same month last year.
  • The Northern Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug toxicity deaths at 28 per 100,000 people in 2020.
  • Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the second highest at 26 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • B.C. averages 22 deaths per 100,000 people.
  • 71 per cent of those dying are aged 19 to 49.
  • 79 per cent of those are men.

Lapointe said recent efforts to improve access to a regulated and safe supply of drugs are encouraging, but the coroners service will continue to recommend an evidence-based, supportive treatment and recovery system.

"The BC Coroners Service continues to work with our partners to collaboratively share information to better understand the situation."

 

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