Once again, a record-number of British Columbians died from illicit drug poisonings in April, according to preliminary data from the B.C. Coroners Service.
At least 176 people fatally overdosed, or roughly 11 deaths every two days. This brings the total number of deaths from January to April to 680.
“I offer my heartfelt condolences to every family in the province that is experiencing the unimaginable pain of sudden and unexpected loss,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement Tuesday (June 1).
The 176 lives lost are a record for the month of April and roughly 43 per cent higher than in April 2020.
The Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities, which include the largest populations of people in B.C., have accounted for 61 per cent of suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths this year.
However, the coroners service noted that the health service delivery areas with the highest rates of death are Vancouver, Northeast, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest and North Vancouver Island – evidence that this crisis has impacted nearly every corner of the province.
The pandemic, while forcing many inside to use alone, has also led to an increased toxicity among street drugs.
Fentanyl has been detected in 86 per cent of deaths this year, while carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has been found in 62 samples – almost as many as were detected in all of 2020 (65).
Meanwhile, benzodiazapenes were detected in 57 per cent of samples in April. That’s almost four times the amount reported in July 2020, at 15 per cent.
“We know that substance use disorder is a complex health issue, and those experiencing it need meaningful and compassionate services and supports,” Lapointe said.
“Far too often, we hear from families who have lost a loved one that no help was available despite desperate searches over months or years. It is critical that harm reduction services, including safe supply, are accessible where and when people need them, and that recovery services are evidence based and accountable.”
More to come.
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