An average number of 6.8 people died every day due to drug toxicity in January, which is up from the average number for 2022 of 6.2 per day, according to the BC Coroner.
At 211 deaths, it was the second-deadliest January in B.C.’s ongoing toxic drug crisis since 2017, after January 2022’s record-high 216 deaths.
READ MORE: By the numbers for British Columbia’s overdose crisis in 2022
“Once again, our agency is reporting on preventable losses of life in heart-breaking numbers,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
“We are nearing the seventh anniversary of the declaration of the public-health emergency into substance-related harms, and the drug-poisoning crisis continues to cost lives and communities at an unprecedented rate. Toxic drugs pose a constant and ever-present danger to anyone who uses drugs. Anyone using any substance purchased on the unregulated illicit drug market is at risk of serious harm or death.”
Island Health had the third-most deaths of all B.C. health authorities in January, with 39 people dying due to drug toxicity. Vancouver Coastal saw the most lives lost due to toxic drugs with 68 deaths, followed by Fraser Health with 60. Interior Health had 31 and Northern Health had 13.
In Island Health, most of the fatalities were recorded in the Central Island region around Nanaimo (18 deaths), while the South Island saw 11 lives lost and the North Island had 10.
Carfentanil was detected in six of the drug toxicity deaths in the province.
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Two deaths have occurred at overdose prevention sites, one in 2022 and the second in 2023, and over half of the deaths occurred in a private residence.
“It’s an unfortunate reality, but teenagers, young adults, and middle-aged people are all finding ways to access toxic illicit substances across this province. And they are dying from those poisoned substances,” said Sonia Furstenau, leader of the B.C. Greens and MLA for Cowichan Valley.
“Stopping preventable deaths should be this government’s priority. Safe drugs stop people from dying. It’s an emergency measure that reduces the ultimate harm, especially for those without overdose prevention sites or drug-checking services. And despite political rhetoric, the data shows that safe supply is hard to access and is in limited supply for those who need it.”