More than 160 people in British Columbia died from illicit drugs last month, new data from the provincial government shows.
According to a preliminary report from the BC Coroners Service, there were at least 169 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in August, a 12 per cent decrease from the month prior. A total of 29 deaths were recorded in the Island Health region in August, with 13 occurring in Greater Victoria.
The total number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in B.C. this year now stands at 1,468, with 71 per cent of those deaths being between 30 and 59 and the majority being male.
“The illicit drug market continues to pose immense risks to people across our province,” Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, said in a press release. “People in communities across B.C. are continuing to lose friends, family members and colleagues to the unprecedented toxicity of the unregulated drug supply. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving the loss of a loved one.”
According to the report, Fraser Health has had the most deaths of any health authority this year with 445, followed by Vancouver Coastal at 405 and Island Health with 251. Of the deaths in Island Health this year, 107 have been in South Island, 102 have been in Central Island and 42 have been in North Island.
Meanwhile, the highest death rates by Local Health Area so for this year have been in Lillooet, Cowichan Valley West, Terrace, Alberni/Clayoquot and Merritt.
The report also notes that 82 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths occurred inside — 56 per cent in private residences and 27 per cent in other inside residences including social and supportive housing, SROs, shelters, and hotels and other indoor locations — and 16 per cent occurred outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, and parks. No deaths have been recorded at a supervised consumption site this year.
When it comes to the age of those who have died from illicit drugs this year in B.C., the 50-59 age group had the most recorded deaths at 359, followed by the 40-49 age bracket at 345 and the 30-39 group at 344. A total of 202 deaths have been in those ages 19-29 while 175 deaths have been those ages 60-69. There have also been 18 deaths in those 70-79, which is slightly lower than the 22 deaths recorded in those 19 and under.
Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, said in a statement that the 169 deaths are devastating losses for families, friends, communities and loved ones.
“My heart is with everyone who had such a tragic loss,” she said. “We are working hard to build a system of mental-health and substance-use care where there wasn’t one five years ago. We are offering innovative harm-reduction solutions, like prescribed safe supply – the only province in Canada to do so — and are adding new treatment beds and recovery services throughout B.C.”