The seventh anniversary of BC’s declaration of a public-health emergency concerning illicit drug use is barely behind us and new figures from the Coroner’s Service show the crisis continues unabated.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe notes that April 14 brought yet another anniversary of the longest public-health emergency in BC’s history.
“Since the emergency was first declared, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives due to the unregulated drug supply.”
Lapointe calls it “a crisis of incomprehensible scale.”
The BC Coroner’s service reports 596 deaths from toxic illicit drugs in the first three months of 2023, an average of six deaths each day.
One-hundred-and-97 deaths were recorded in March and 177 in February.
On Vancouver Island, there have been 116 illicit drug related deaths in the first three months of this year.
The death rates for northern and central Vancouver Island are among the highest in BC.
On the north Island, the average is 78 deaths per 100,000 people, with 68 per 100,000 for the central Island.
The BC Coroners Service reports 53 deaths from January to March in the Central Island Health Delivery Area, 13 on the north Island, and 37 on southern Vancouver Island.
Lapointe says thousands of British Columbians remain at risk of dying from toxic drugs and it is “clear that an urgent response to this crisis is required and overdue.”
Some key findings from the BC Coroners Service Report:
- In 2023, 71% of those dying were age 30 to 59, and 77% were male.
- The townships experiencing the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in 2023 are Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria.
- By health authority, in 2023, the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths were in Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities (190 and 161 deaths, respectively), making up 59% of all such deaths during 2023.
- By health authority, the highest rates of death in 2023 were in Northern Health (60 deaths per 100,000 individuals) and Vancouver Coastal Health (59 per 100,000).
- By health service delivery area, in 2023, the highest rates of death were in Vancouver, northwestern B.C., northern Vancouver Island, northern Interior, and central Vancouver Island.
- By local health area in 2022, the highest rates were in Vancouver – Centre North, Terrace, Merritt, Hope and Prince George.
- Two deaths have occurred at an overdose prevention site: one in 2022 and one in 2023.