According to data from the BC Coroners Service (BCCS), at least 1,011 people died from suspected illicit drug toxicity between January and June of this year.
In June alone, 159 British Columbians died from drug toxicity, marking the ninth consecutive month with over 150 deaths and the 16th straight month with over 100.
BCCS officials said drug toxicity has become the leading cause of death for B.C. residents between 19 and 39 years old. So far in 2021, 381 people in that age group have been killed by overdosing on toxic drugs.
“The deaths of more than 1,000 British Columbians in the first six months of 2021 is a tragic reminder that the toxic illicit drug supply remains a significant ongoing threat to public health and safety in communities throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service. “The data released today highlights the immensity of this public health emergency and the need for a wide-scale response. This includes removing barriers to safe supply, ensuring timely access to evidence-based affordable treatment and providing those experiencing problematic substance use with compassionate and viable options to reduce risks and save lives.”
For comparison, 757 people died from toxic drugs in B.C. in the first six months of 2020.
Locally, two people died in June, adding up to a total of nine for the East Kootenay up to the end of June 2021.
The BCCS report states that fentanyl has been detected in 85% of deaths in 2021.
According to the B.C. Government, a controlled, safe supply is not contributing to the overdose crisis, and provincial officials said the problem has been driven by the illicit drug market.
The BCCS released the latest data on August 31st, International Overdose Awareness Day.
“To the thousands of B.C. families grieving the loss of a beloved family member, I extend my heartfelt condolences and my hope that the stories you’ve shared will continue to influence positive change. Those who died mattered and their loss is felt deeply, and we must continue to urge those in positions of influence across our province and the country to move to urgently implement measures to prevent more unnecessary suffering and death,” said Lapointe.