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Over six people per day died in BC in May due to illicit drugs

Toxic illicit drugs claimed the lives of at least 195 British Columbians in May of this year according to the BC Coroners Service.

“After a catastrophic 2021, I am saddened to report that we are, once again, on pace to lose a record number of our community members in 2022,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service. “The illicit drug supply in this province continues to be volatile and inconsistent and presents a significant risk to anyone who uses drugs.”

At least 940 lives were lost to toxic drugs in B.C. between January and May, a record number for the first five months of a calendar year. Following two months of a small decline, the 195 recorded deaths in May is the largest number ever recorded in that calendar month and is a 20% increase over the number of deaths reported in April 2022 (162). The total number of deaths in the month equates to an average of about 6.3 deaths per day.

Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia.

“Every life lost to illicit drugs in our province is a preventable tragedy,” Lapointe said. “Panel members from the Coroners Service Death Review Panel into Illicit Drug Toxicity deaths recommended urgent action to address the terrible loss of life our province continues to experience. Recommended actions in their March 2022 report include a provincial framework for the distribution of safer drug supply, the development of a 30/60/90-day action plan with clear goals, targets, and deliverable timeframes for reducing the number of drug toxicity deaths, and completing a framework for establishing a substance-use system of care. Responses to these recommendations have not yet been received.”

Additional key preliminary findings are below.

(Data is subject to change as additional toxicology results are received)

* By health authority in 2022, the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths have been in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities (302 and 263 deaths, respectively), making up 60% of all such deaths during this period.

* By health authority in 2022, the highest rates of death have been reported in Northern Health (53 deaths per 100,000 individuals) and Vancouver Coastal Health (50 per 100,000). Overall, the rate in B.C. is 43 deaths per 100,000 individuals in 2022.

* By health service delivery area in 2022, the highest rates of death have been reported in Vancouver, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest, Fraser East, and Northern Interior.

* By local health area in 2022, the highest rates of death have been reported in Lillooet, Mission, Cariboo/Chilcotin, Powell River, and Merritt.

With files from Hartley Miller,

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