B.C. posts several grim milestones en route to another record year for illicit-drug overdoses

B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau is urging a new approach to cut the number of fatalities

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      The latest report on illicit-drug toxicity deaths in B.C. is full of gruesome data on the overdose crisis.

      There was a record number of suspected illicit-drug toxicity deaths in a month in November—210—eclipsing the previous month's record of 199 in October.

      But then in December, a new benchmark was set with 215 suspected deaths from this cause.

      That contributed to an annual record of 2,224 deaths in 2021.

      This amounted to a 26 percent increase over the previous record set in 2020.

      The 2021 fatality toll was 126.5 percent higher than the 982 deaths recorded in 2019.

      "In the past seven years, the rate of death due to illicit drug toxicity in our province has risen more than 400 percent," chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release. "Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in B.C. for potential years of life lost.

      "We cannot simply hope that things will improve," she continued. "It is long past time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the flourishing illicit drug market, and to ensure, on an urgent basis, access across the province to a safe, reliable regulated drug supply.”

      B.C. Coroners Service

      In 2021, there were more than 150 suspected illicit-drug toxicity deaths in every month of the year in B.C. In November and December, there were, on average, about seven deaths a day due to this cause.

      “This government applauded itself yesterday for the work it has done to introduce safe supply and request federal decriminalization," B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau said in a statement. "But the truth is that this government’s measures have not reduced deaths—in fact, they are increasing.

      "When concerned citizens take it upon themselves to hand out safe drugs on the streets of the Downtown Eastside, it is clear that this government is failing," she added. "We are not doing nearly enough to reduce harm and meet people where they are at."

      B.C. Green Leader Sonia Furstenau is urging a "low-barrier" approach to get unpoisoned drugs to users.

      About 71 percent of those dying last year from toxic-drug overdoses were between 30 and 59 years old and 78 percent were male.

      The number of women dying from this cause is on the increase, however, rising from 334 to 484 between 2020 and 2021. All age groups also posted an increase in these deaths, with 29 occurring among people below the age of 19 in 2021.

      Another 30 fatalities were recorded among those from 70 to 79 years of age.

      More than half of all illicit-drug toxicity deaths occurred in private residences. Another 25 percent died in other residences. And about 15 percent of these deaths happened outside.

      The Greens have called for a "low-barrier safe supply that does not require a diagnosis, daily lineups, or finding a sympathetic doctor".

      "As we start this legislative session, we urgently need to convene an all-party committee to create immediate, stabilizing solutions to the toxic drug crisis," Furstenau said.

      The chart below shows how many more unnatural deaths are occurring due to drug overdoses in comparison to other causes.

      B.C. Coroners Service

      Below are some social-media comments about this situation.