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B.C. reports 189 toxic drug deaths in October

The BC Coroners Service said at least 2,039 British Columbians died from unregulated drugs in the first 10 months of 2023.

Coroners Service officials said October was the 37th consecutive month with at least 150 deaths attributed to toxic drugs.

The 189 deaths recorded through the month equates to about 6.1 lives lost per day.

Locally, one person died of drug poisoning in the East Kootenay in October, and no deaths were reported in the Kootenay Boundary.

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In the first 10 months of 2023, 35 people died in the Kootenay Boundary and 20 East Kootenay residents lost their lives to toxic drugs.

“The toxic drug crisis continues to devastate communities of all sizes throughout British Columbia,” said BCCS officials. “The provincewide death rate for the year is 45 per 100,000 residents, the highest such number ever recorded.”

Officials said toxicology reports confirmed that unregulated drugs in the province remain volatile.

“Illicit fentanyl and its analogues are present in 85% of expedited test results, often in combination with other opioids and/or stimulants, including cocaine and methamphetamine,” said the BCCS. “The BC Coroners Service continues to monitor closely for the presence of prescribed safer-supply medications in its testing, with hydromorphone detected in approximately 4% of tests.”

The report followed a recent drug alert that was active across the Interior Health region.

“Earlier in November 2023, Interior Health issued a drug advisory warning people who use drugs that some substances being advertised as hydromorphone on the black market actually contain isotonitazine, a drug as dangerously potent as fentanyl,” said the BCCS. “The only way to be certain about the substances contained in a product that is purchased illicitly is through a drug-checking service.”

Officials said unregulated drug toxicity continues to be the leading cause of death for B.C. residents aged 10 to 59.

It accounts for more fatalities than homicides, suicides, accidents and diseases combined.

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