Tragic record set again by B.C.
At least 1,095 British Columbians, including seven in the East Kootenay, are believed to have been lost to the toxic drug supply between January and June 2022, according to preliminary data released by the BC Coroners Service.
The number of lives lost to toxic drugs in B.C. between January and June is the highest ever recorded in the first six months of a calendar year. More than three quarters (78%) of the lives lost in 2022 were male and nearly the same percentage (73%) were between the ages of 30-59. On average, more than six lives have been lost to illicit drugs every day this year.
“The ever-increasing toxicity of the unregulated, illicit drug market is taking a heart-breaking toll on the lives and well-being of members of our communities across the province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Deaths due to toxic drugs in the first half of 2022 have surpassed the number of deaths experienced in the same period in 2021, putting our province, once again, on track for a record loss of life.”
The majority of illicit drug toxicity deaths have been recorded in either the Fraser or Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities (352 and 297 deaths respectively), making up 59% of all such deaths in the first six months of 2022. However, rates of death remain high throughout the province, with Northern Health reporting a rate of death of 53 per 100,000 residents, and four of five health authorities reporting rates above the provincial average (42 deaths per 100,000 residents).
The rate is 43 per 100,000 for Interior Health Authority.
Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.
“Tragically, in the seventh year of this public heath emergency, as we are experiencing increasing numbers of deaths in July, our province has now lost more than 10,000 lives to illicit drugs since April 2016,” Lapointe said.
“These were men, women and youth from all walks of life. They lived in our neighbourhoods, worked in our workplaces and played on our sports teams. Some lived ordinary lives, while others faced enormous challenges. All of them fell prey to the lethal supply of illicit drugs that is omnipresent. As recommended by the subject matter experts on the recent Death Review Panel, it is imperative that we urgently provide access to safer supply across our province. It’s only when we drastically reduce people’s reliance on the profit-driven, illicit drug trade, that we will save lives and turn the trajectory of this crisis around.”
Additional key preliminary findings are below. Data are subject to change as additional toxicology results are received:
* By health service delivery area, in 2022, the highest rates of death have been recorded in Vancouver, Thompson Cariboo, Northern Interior, Northwest and Fraser East.
* By local health area, in 2022, the highest rates of death have been recorded in Lillooet, Mission, Terrace, Cariboo/Chilcotin and Powell River.
* In 2022, 84% of illicit drug toxicity deaths have occurred inside (56% in private residences and 27% in other inside residences including social and supportive housing, single-room occupancies, shelters, and hotels and other indoor locations), while 15% have occurred outside (in vehicles, sidewalks, streets, parks, etc.)
* Analysis of post-mortem toxicology results shows no indication that prescribed safe supply is contributing to illicit drug deaths regionally or provincially.