Newly released data from the B.C. Coroners Service shows 195 people died from toxic drugs in May — the highest number ever recorded for that month.
The latest figure is a 13 per cent increase over the 172 deaths recorded in May 2021 and is a 20 per cent increase from the 162 deaths recorded in April 2022.
Roughly six British Columbians died every day in May from toxic drugs.
“The illicit drug supply in this province continues to be volatile and inconsistent, and presents a significant risk to anyone who uses drugs,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner with the B.C. Coroners Service.
Fentanyl or its analogues were detected in 83 per cent of all illicit drug deaths in 2022. Of those who died, 73 per cent were aged 30 to 59 and 76 per cent were male.
Vancouver, Greater Victoria and Surrey saw the highest numbers of drug toxicity deaths. Lillooet, Mission, Cariboo/Chilcotin, Powell River and Merritt are the local health authorities with the highest rates of deaths in 2022.
Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia.
B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions, Shelia Malcomson, issued a statement calling the latest figures “a devastating loss”. She said the province is working on a continuum of mental health and addiction care. Though Malcomson acknowledged the root of the issue is the toxicity of B.C.’s illicit drug supply.
“We are deepening our investment in people and innovative solutions to turn this crisis around, such as leading the country on prescribed safe supply and decriminalizing people who use drugs. We know there is much more to do, and we won’t stop working until we finally put an end to this terrible crisis.”