126 children, youth die due to toxic-drug supply in B.C. over 5 years

For the International Overdose Awareness Day in 2022, many gathered at the B.C. legislature, calling for more action to end the crisis. (File photo)

Over the past five years, 126 children and youth died due to the toxic-drug supply in B.C., according to the B.C. Coroners Service.

The coroner says unregulated drugs accounted for the death of 126 youth under the age of 19 from the beginning of 2019 to the end of 2023, equating to 25 deaths per year.

“Unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death for this age group,” the coroners service says.

Of those deaths, 75 were aged 17 or 18, 40 were between 14-16 and 11 were younger than 14.

The largest number of deaths occurred in Fraser Health, Island Health and Interior Health. Vancouver, Greater Victoria and Kamloops were the municipalities that saw the highest number of children and youth deaths.

There were 35 children or youth who died of the toxic-drug supply in Island Health and 14 in Greater Victoria.

More than 70 per cent of the deaths occurred inside a private residence and more than half occurred when the youth was using alone.

“Fentanyl or its analogues were detected in 83% of all deaths, either alone or in combination with other substances,” the coroners service report says.

There were zero deaths where hydromorphone was the only drug detected in the toxicological analysis, but it was detected in 16 youth deaths in combination with other substances.


Laura Brougham

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