Calling the findings both “sad and deeply frustrating,” the head of the BC Coroners Service responded to the findings of a new report which show that the province recorded its highest highest-ever one month total of illicit drug deaths in May.
In total, there were 170 deaths linked to illicit drug toxicity, the report said.
This number surpasses the previous high of 161 reported in December of 2016. British Columbia has recorded three consecutive months with over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths.
There have been 554 illicit drug deaths to date in 2020 in the province.
In her response to the latest figures, Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe noted that they come come “four years after the declaration of a public health emergency,” regarding illicit drug overdose deaths in BC.
“Despite the many collective efforts directed at this crisis, the toxic drug supply continues to take the lives of our family members, friends, and colleagues,” she said. “We still know that illicit drug toxicity death rates in BC remain the highest for any jurisdiction in Canada, and every region in BC has been impacted.”
That said, Lapointe added that “were it not for the dedicated efforts taken to date, the death toll would be higher.”
As such, “we must continue to build on further access to safe supply in BC and for a regulated, evidence-based, supportive treatment, and recovery system as important pillars in preventing future deaths.”
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The BC Coroners Service said that post-mortem toxicology testing data published in this most recent report suggest an increase in the number of cases with extreme fentanyl concentrations in April and May 2020 compared with previous months.
“The drug supply is unpredictable and highly toxic, and has led to a sustained increase in fatal and non-fatal overdoses from smoking and injection in recent months,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, harm reduction lead for the BC Centre for Disease Control. “COVID-19 has added challenges and people may be feeling more isolated and anxious, but it’s important to continue to buddy up, or access local overdose prevention and supervised consumption services during this time.”