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Over 850 people lose their lives to toxic illicit drugs in 2021

Another 160 people lost their lives this May due to illicit drug toxicity.

It’s the 15th consecutive month where B.C has seen deaths related to toxic drugs get above 100, and it’s not something to be proud of, explains B.C’s Chief Coroner, Lisa Lapointe.

“More than five years into this public health emergency, we continue to lose our loved ones, friends and neighbours at an almost unimaginable rate. There is no way to measure the catastrophic impact that the loss of these lives have had on every community in our province. Today, I grieve with all those who have lost someone close to them as a result of this crisis.”

The 851 lives lost between January and May are the most ever reported in the first five months of a calendar year, passing the 704 deaths reported in 2017 by almost 21 percent.

Another scary statistic announced today is that the supply is a continued threat to drug users in the province, with 27% of the samples tested in April, and 25% of samples tested in May contained extreme concentrations (more than 50 micrograms per litre) of fentanyl.

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Carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has now been detected in 75 deaths in 2021, and 60% of returned tests in May were positive for benzodiazepines, which create significant life-saving challenges for first responders when used in combination with opioids.

Chief Coroner Lapointe says as we continue to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, we should be focusing our efforts on the other, more serious problem in B.C. 

“As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, we must turn our attention to combating B.C.’s other public health emergency with the same sense of urgency,” Lapointe said. “We need to ensure that safe alternatives to toxic illicit drugs are available throughout the province, and that we are taking meaningful steps to reduce stigma and offer substance users access to the support they need and are seeking.”

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