‘Grief and frustration’ as B.C. marks a new record death toll in overdose crisis

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Published December 9, 2021 at 12:19 pm

VICTORIA — British Columbia has recorded its highest-ever monthly number of suspected overdose deaths from toxic illicit drugs. 

A statement from the coroners’ service says there were 201 fatalities in October from illicit drug toxicity, an average of about 6.5 people per day.

It says the 1,782 overdose deaths recorded between January and October are already the highest ever recorded in a calendar year in B.C. 

Almost 80 per cent of those who died were male, and about 71 per cent of the fatalities were people between 30 and 59 years of age.

The service says the powerful opioid fentanyl has been linked to 84 per cent of the province’s drug toxicity deaths this year.

Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions, says almost every person in the province knows someone whose life has been touched by the crisis and she feels everyone’s grief and frustration.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says a comprehensive plan to ensure access to safe alternatives to an increasingly toxic and volatile illicit drug supply 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,” Lapointe says in the statement.

While the largest numbers of deaths have been recorded in urban centres such as as Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria, the coroners’ service notes death rates are at record levels in every health authority.  

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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