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More than 300 illicit drug deaths reported in August and September

333 British Columbians lost their lives to suspected illicit drug toxicity in August and September of this year, according to data from the BC Coroners Service (BCCS).

The BCCS report said two people died in the East Kootenay region in August and one death happened in September. Meanwhile, the Central Kootenay area reported one death in August and three in September.

As of September 30th, 1,534 B.C. residents lost their lives to toxic drugs in 2021 alone. 181 deaths were reported in August, while 152 people died in September

“Once again, we are reporting record numbers of deaths in our province due to the toxic illicit drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “The tremendous loss being felt by families and communities across B.C. as they mourn loved ones lost far too soon is heartbreaking.”

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According to the BCCS, the province-wide death rate stands at 39.4 per 100,000, nearly double what it was in 2016 when the public health emergency was declared.

Testing has confirmed an increase in toxic substances in B.C.’s drug supply.

“Fentanyl and its analogues have now been detected in 84% of all illicit toxicity deaths in 2021, with carfentanil, a particularly potent analogue, being detected in 137 deaths, more than double the 65 deaths recorded in all of 2020,” said Coroners Service officials.

The BCCS added that more than one substance has been detected in a majority of tests. In addition to fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine/amphetamine and other opioids are the most frequently found.

September 2021 also marks the 12th consecutive month with more than 150 deaths due to toxic drugs.

“Our province is in the sixth year of this public health emergency, and the death rate due to toxic drugs has never been higher,” Lapointe said. “Urgent action on a number of fronts is required, including much broader access to safe supply, more readily available and efficient drug-checking services, and a shift from a law-enforcement focus to a health-centred approach. The Province’s application to the federal government to decriminalize possession of illicit drugs for personal use is an essential step to address the drug toxicity crisis. Criminalizing those who use substances has done nothing to address this complex health issue and has resulted in greater suffering and marginalization. How many more deaths are we willing to accept to maintain drug policies and laws that have no basis in evidence?”

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