At least 207 B.C. residents lost their lives to toxic illicit drugs in January, according to the latest reports from the BC Coroners Service.
January of 2022 marks the fourth consecutive month with more than 200 deaths attributed to toxic illicit drugs. January’s death toll equated to an average of 6.7 deaths per day.
“The new year has started with the loss of 207 more British Columbians to the toxic illicit drug supply in our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “I extend my heartfelt condolences to the many families grieving the loss of a loved one in communities large and small. As we near the six-year anniversary of the declaration of B.C.’s public health emergency into substance-related harms, it is clearer than ever that traditional approaches to substance use are hurting people and costing lives. I am hopeful that the recent recommendations made by the Coroners Service Drug Toxicity Death Review Panel will support the meaningful change underway in our province and an end to this tragic crisis.”
Locally, three people died in the East Kootenay and one person was killed in the Kootenay Boundary region. 37 deaths were reported across the Interior Health region in January.
According to the report, there has been a notable increase in drug deaths in small to medium-sized communities.
“The 11 recorded deaths in Kamloops in January made it the third most affected township in B.C. behind only Vancouver and Surrey. And the 19 deaths recorded in Northern Health equates to a death rate of 74.5 per 100,000 residents, by far the highest rate of any health authority,” said officials with the B.C. Government.
The report noted that approximately 23 per cent of tests returned extreme levels of fentanyl (over 50 micrograms per litre), compared to 13 per cent between April 2020 and October 2021.
“We know that illicit substances in our province are toxic and that those dependent on them are vulnerable to serious harms and death,” said Lapointe. “Ensuring access to safer supply, establishing a substance use system of care, and turning the focus away from punishing and stigmatizing are critical steps to resolving this public health emergency.”
More: BC Coroners Service review urges safer drug supply (March 9, 2022)