November marks another horrific month for overdose deaths in British Columbia

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      The B.C. Coroners Service released more grim numbers this morning.

      In November, there were 153 suspected drug-toxicity deaths. That's a whopping 89 percent increase over the figure recorded in November 2019.

      But it's seven percent below the 164 suspected drug-toxicity deaths in October.

      Through the first 11 months of the year, there have been 1,548 of these deaths. 

      The vast majority—70 percent—were between the ages of 30 and 59. And males account for 81 percent of the fatalities.

      “Tragically, as we reach the end of 2020, our province is facing a record-breaking year for lives lost due to a toxic illicit-drug supply,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release.

      “In the five years of this public health emergency, more than 6,500 families have experienced the grief and sadness of losing a loved one to the challenging medical condition of drug addiction. I extend my sincere condolences to all of those grieving a family member, friend or colleague due to this disease.”

      The B.C. Coroners Service noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the record number of deaths from illicit drug overdoses.

      “Ensuring access to critical harm reduction measures including naloxone, supervised consumption sites, overdose prevention sites and drug checking services are essential if we want to prevent future deaths," LaPointe declared. "Providing those with substance use disorder access to pharmaceutical alternatives will be of immense benefit to reduce the harms and suffering resulting from the ‘for-profit’ illicit drug market."

      The highest number of fentanyl-detected deaths in 2020 have occurred in Vancouver, where 318 lost their lives this way. That's followed by Surrey (162), Victoria (108), and Abbotsford (51), according to a B.C. Coroners Service report.

      In response to the new data, the Canadian Association for Safe Supply has called onhealth decision makers "to rapidly expand access to legal and regulated substances of known potency".

      “For people using illicit fentanyl, prescribed fentanyl can be a lifesaver, prescribed heroin can be a lifesaver too, but decision makers need to invest in these programs to make them a reality,” CASS cofounder Jordan Westfall said in a news release.