Toxic drugs claimed the lives of 184 people in July, the BC Coroners Service said in a report released Wednesday (Sept. 29).
The coroners service said it was the second deadliest month on record since record-keeping began and is the seventeenth consecutive month of more than 100 deaths. The month saw 5.9 drug deaths per day on average.
July has brought the death toll for the year to 1,204 deaths, 263 more than were reported by this time last year.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said that illicit fentanyl and its analogues continue to be “significant drivers” in the illicit drug crisis, being detected in 85 per cent of deaths in 2020 and 2021. The coroners service said that post-mortem toxicology results continued to show an increase in deaths associated with extreme fentanyl concentrations, with 13 per cent of preliminary toxicological tests noting concentrations greater than 50 micrograms per litre between April 2020 and July 2021.
Since the drug crisis was declared a public health emergency in 2016, the death rate of overdose deaths in B.C. has nearly doubled from 20.4 per 100,000 to 39.7 per 100,000 in 2021.
“Clearly, the scale of this public health emergency requires an urgent, co-ordinated and multi-faceted health-system response,” Lapointe said. “Those at risk of dying come from all walks of life and live in every part of our province. If we truly want to save lives, an accessible range of solutions that reflects the breadth and scope of this crisis is urgently needed. This would include drug-checking services, safe consumption sites, meaningful access to life-saving safe supply and the implementation of evidence-based standards of practice for the treatment of problematic substance use. The heartbreak being experienced by another five or six more families in our province each and every day cannot continue.”
The coroners service said that preliminary findings show that 72 per cent of 2021 illicit drug deaths were in people between the ages of 30 and 59. Seventy-nine per cent of the people who died this year were men.