198 people died in January due to unregulated drugs: BC Coroner

198 people died in January due to unregulated drugs: BC Coroner
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In January, 198 people died due to unregulated drugs in British Columbia, 39 of whom were in Island Health, according to the B.C. coroner.

This total amounts to about 6.4 deaths per day. The number of deaths in January 2024 is a 14 per cent decrease from the same month in 2023, and a 10 per cent decrease from December 2023.

The three municipalities experiencing the highest number of deaths are Vancouver, Surrey and Nanaimo. For many months Greater Victoria has had the third most deaths in the province. This is the first time Nanaimo has surpassed Victoria.

In Island Health there were 50 unregulated drug deaths per 100,000 people. B.C.’s rate is 42 deaths per 100,000 people.

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Smoking was the most common mode of consumption in 2024, with 69 per cent of people showing signs of smoking, with nasal insufflation representing 15 per cent, injection 13 per cent and oral at eight per cent.

“There is no indication that prescribed safer supply is contributing to unregulated drug deaths,” the coroner report says. “In 2023, hydromorphone was detected in three per cent of unregulated drug deaths that have undergone expedited toxicology testing.”

The number of unregulated drug deaths in Island Health is five fewer than January 2023, though sometimes coroner investigations aren’t complete in time for the report to be distributed so some may be added later.

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In the Local Health Service Delivery Areas, Central Vancouver Island has had the most number of deaths with 19, followed by North Vancouver Island with 11 and South Vancouver Island with nine people dying.

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“Every province is struggling with drug-poisoning deaths and the ongoing impacts of this crisis, including Alberta and Saskatchewan, as well as the eastern United States. I understand the pain and the urgency of this crisis,” Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions said in a news release.

“It touches every corner of our province, affecting people from all walks of life. Our government is dedicated to building a system of care that offers support when and where it is needed most. We will continue our efforts to bolster mental-health and addiction services, from early intervention and prevention to treatment and supportive recovery.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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