206 people die due to unregulated drugs in B.C. in April: B.C. Coroner

206 people die due to unregulated drugs in B.C. in April: B.C. Coroner

In April, 206 people died due to unregulated drugs in B.C., which is a 17 per cent increase from the same month in 2022, according to the B.C. Coroner.

In the province, the number of deaths in April amounts to 6.9 deaths per day.

April 2023 is now the 31st consecutive month where 150 or more people died due to unregulated drugs, and the 13th where more than 200 people died, according to the coroner.

The coroner says the illicit drug supply remains highly volatile, and fentanyl is present in about eight of every 10 deaths.

“Illicit fentanyl continues to be the main and most lethal driver of B.C.’s drug-toxicity public-health emergency, having been detected in 86 per cent of deaths in 2022 and 79 per cent of deaths in 2023,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“Cocaine, methamphetamines and/or benzodiazapines are also often present. This drug poisoning crisis is the direct result of an unregulated drug market. Members of our communities are dying because non-prescribed, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is poisoning them on an unprecedented scale.”

B.C.’s representative for children and youth, Jennifer Charlesworth, said her office sees no evidence that diverted safe supply is a factor in drug-related deaths, and youth who are dying in the province are accessing illicit supply of drugs.

“Based on the reports of critical injuries and deaths that my office reviews every month, we have not seen any indication that youth are using from diverted supply,” Charlesworth said.

“The injuries and deaths reported to us are as a result of youth accessing the illicit supply and they are typically using an array of substances. Through our advocacy work and in-depth reviews, young people are advising us that they are accessing an illicit supply in order to cope with the trauma that they are dealing with in their lives.”

Since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016, at least 12,046 people in B.C. have  died due to unregulated drugs.

“It’s critical that we rely on science, reliable data and legitimate reporting as we respond to an emergency that has taken the lives of so many of our family members, friends and neighbours,” Lapointe said.

“We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that the root of this crisis was the arrival of illicit fentanyl in B.C. in 2013, and that it has been driven by illicit fentanyl ever since. Safer-supply prescribing and the decriminalization of small amounts of some drugs for personal use are recent health-centred approaches to a complex health challenge.”

“Anonymous allegations and second-hand anecdotes suggesting that these new initiatives are somehow responsible for the crisis our province has been experiencing since early 2016 are not only harmful, they are simply wrong.”

In April, 35 people died due to an overdose due to the unregulated drug supply, bringing the total for the year to 153.

Greater Victoria remains in the top three spot for highest number of unregulated drug deaths in B.C., just behind Vancouver and Surrey.

Local health authorities with the highest number of deaths in 2022 were Vancouver- Centre North, Terrace, Greater Campbell River, Princeton, and Greater Nanaimo.

Up to April 30, Central Vancouver Island now has the most deaths in Island Health with 69, followed by South Vancouver Island with 51 and North Vancouver Island with 33.

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Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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