The toxic illicit drug supply claimed the lives of at least 2,224 British Columbians in 2021, according to preliminary data released by the BC Coroners Service.
“Over the past seven years, our province has experienced a devastating loss of life due to a toxic illicit drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “This public health emergency has impacted families and communities across the province and shows no sign of abating. In the past seven years, the rate of death due to illicit drug toxicity in our province has risen more than 400%. Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in B.C. for potential years of life lost. It is long past time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the flourishing illicit drug market, and to ensure, on an urgent basis, access across the province to a safe, reliable regulated drug supply.”
The last two months of 2021 saw the largest number of suspected illicit drug deaths ever recorded in the province, with 210 deaths in November and an additional 215 in December. In addition, the total number of deaths in 2021 is 26% higher than drug-related deaths in 2020 and equates to about 6.1 deaths per day.
Since the public health emergency into substance-related harms was first declared in April 2016, more than 8,800 British Columbians have been lost to toxic drugs with year over year increases showing that the problem was getting worse. Toxicological testing shows that the illicit drug supply continues to be unstable and increasingly toxic with more Fentanyl and Carfentanil being detected.
“We need decision-makers at all levels to recognize and respond to this public health emergency with the level of urgency it demands,” Lapointe said. “Time has run out for research and discussion. It is time to take action.”
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