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Toxic drugs claim record number of lives in B.C.

At least 201 lives were lost to toxic drugs in B.C. throughout October, breaking all previous records for the most deaths from this cause in a single month.

Data from the BC Coroners Service said a total of 1,782 British Columbians died from toxic drug overdoses, surpassing the numbers for all of 2020, with 1,765 reported deaths.

“Today is a heart-rending milestone for our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner. “The deaths of more than 200 of our community members in one month due to toxic drugs is a devastating loss. In the sixth year of this public health emergency, we are experiencing a record loss of life and I know this news will resonate with tremendous sadness amongst the thousands of families who have lost a loved one to this crisis. My thoughts continue to be with every family and community that is grieving the loss of a loved one.”

October of 2021 was the first month when confirmed drug-related deaths passed 200.

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According to officials with the B.C. Coroners Service, more than 8,300 people died from drug toxicity since the public health emergency was declared in April of 2016.

The overall death rate in B.C. stands at 41.2 per 100,000 people, more than double what it was in 2016.

“This is a health crisis,” Lapointe said. “I cannot stress enough how urgent this emergency has become. A comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe supply for the thousands of B.C. residents dependent on these substances is essential. Shifting from a punishment and stigmatizing regime to a decriminalized, health-focused model is also a critical step to reduce suffering and save lives.”

Locally, two people died in both the East Kootenay and Kootenay Boundary regions in October. Toxic drugs claimed 23 lives in the Kootenay Boundary region, while 19 people died in the East Kootenay up to the end of October 2021.

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