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Last year marked the highest toxic drug death rate in BC since recording began
More than 2,500 people died in BC last year as a result of the toxic drug crisis, marking its worst year since recording began.
On average, nearly seven people died each day with the number of deceased increasing by 5% from 2022, previously the record-breaking year.
The Island saw 470 deaths, with 145 occurring in Greater Victoria, a similar number to 2022 when 146 died from toxic drugs. In Nanaimo, 116 people died as a result of toxic drugs, an increase from the 85 who died in 2022. Campbell River had 47 and the Cowichan Valley had 43.
On the Island, 40 people died in Nov. and 47 in Dec., the highest monthly toll since Feb. Capital Daily previously reported on the spike in drug deaths during colder months, with outreach workers in Victoria saying the situation continues to get worse.
Greater Victoria, Vancouver, and Surrey experienced the highest number of these deaths.
“This crisis, driven primarily by unregulated fentanyl, has cost our province dearly in the loss of much-loved and valued members of our communities,” Lisa Lapointe, the province’s chief coroner, said in a statement.
Fentanyl continues to be the most detected illicit substance in toxic drug deaths, with more than 85% of deaths tied to it. The unpredictable concentrations of fentanyl pose the highest risk, with concentrations showing the biggest spike in April, statistics show.
Lapointe, who plans to retire from her position next month, said it “deeply saddens” her that the coroners service has been “unable to influence the essential change necessary to reduce the tragic impacts of toxic drugs.”
She has insisted recommendations from this fall’s death review panel, such as offering non-prescription availability to safer supply, must be followed if the situation is going to change. The province rejected the recommendations shortly after the report was released.
The coroners service continues to emphasize that safer supply is not tied to a rise in toxic drug deaths. Hydromorphone, prescribed as a safer supply alternative, was only tied to 3% of these deaths.