160 people across BC lost their lives due to illicit drug toxicity last month, averaging 5.2 lives every single day.
This is according to the BC Coroner’s Service, which says this is the second-largest number of suspected deaths ever recorded in the month of May, as 177 people passed away in May of 2020.
Northern Health saw the highest rates of illicit drug toxicity deaths when compared to the rest of the province at 48 deaths per 100,000 individuals.
851 people have died in BC from illicit drug toxicity between January and May, the most ever reported in the first five months of a calendar year, a record that was initially set at 704 in 2017.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, we must turn our attention to combating B.C.͛s other public health emergency with the same sense of urgency,” said Lisa Lapointe, Chief Coroner, BC Coroners Service.
According to the Coroner’s Service, 70% of the total illicit drug toxicity deaths were from people between the ages of 30 to 59, while males accounted for 80% of the deaths in all of 2021.
Among the various drugs involved in illicit drug toxicity investigations, illicit fentanyl has increased by 80% since 2012, the current mark stands at 85%.
The Coroner’s Service notes that post-mortem toxicology results suggest there have been a greater number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations after April 2020, compared with previous months.
Meanwhile, Methamphetamine has increased by 29% since 2012, but cocaine and other opioids have been on a steady decline since 2012.
͞”We need to ensure that safe alternatives to toxic illicit drugs are available throughout the province and that we are taking meaningful steps to reduce stigma and offer substance users access to the supports they need and are seeking,” added Lapointe.
The Coroners Service also reports 60% of returned tests in May were positive for benzodiazepines, which create significant life-saving challenges for first responders when used in combination with opioids.
Additionally, the service reported that none of the illicit drug deaths reported during this time frame have occured at a supervised consumption site or drug overdose prevention site.