– Story by Mike Patterson, Vista Radio staff
The BC Coroners Service says 333 lives were lost to toxic illicit drugs in August and September.
That raises the total number of overdose deaths in BC this year to 1,534.
The deaths in 2021 are the most in the first nine months of any calendar year and represent a 24 per cent increase over the 1,240 deaths recorded between January and September of 2020.
The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in August and September 2021 is equal to about 5.5 deaths per day.
The Coroners Service says 71 per cent of those who have died as a result of suspected drug toxicity in 2021 were between 30 and 59, and 79 per cent were male.
Breaking them down by health regions, in 2021 the highest rates were in North Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Thompson Cariboo, Northwest, and Fraser East.
Deaths due to drug toxicity remain the leading cause of unnatural death in BC.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says “once again, we are reporting record numbers of deaths in our province due to the toxic illicit drug supply.”
Her office says September was the 12th consecutive month in which there were at least 150 deaths due to toxic illicit drugs, and an average of 170 people have been lost each month in 2021.
The Chief Coroner says the province “is in the sixth year of this public health emergency, and the death rate due to toxic drugs has never been higher.”
Lapointe wants to see urgent action on a number of fronts.
She says there should be much broader access to a safe supply, more readily available and efficient drug-checking services, and a shift from a law-enforcement focus to a health-centered approach.
The coroner says BC’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.
The opposition Liberals say the latest illicit drug overdose report confirms that 2021 will likely be the deadliest year ever in the province for opioid deaths.
Trevor Halford, the Liberal Critic for Mental Health and Addictions, says “month after month we detail record-breaking numbers of overdose deaths, but the NDP continues to fail to deliver any meaningful action.”
Halford says “Immediate action is needed to expand pathways to recovery, so people can get the help they need when they need it.”
However, he says the NDP has failed to adequately expand supports, leaving those suffering from addiction without long-term care, without nearly enough treatment beds, and with little-to-no focus on prevention.