The BC Coroners Service report on toxic illicit drug deaths for April said nearly 6 people died per day in the province, with one death in Kootenay Boundary.
So far in 2021, the Coroners Service said 680 people died from illicit drug toxicity up to April.
“Once again, we’re reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “I offer my heartfelt condolences to every family in the province that is experiencing the unimaginable pain of sudden and unexpected loss. Every life lost to toxic drugs in our province is a profound tragedy. Every one of them mattered, and every one of them will be missed.”
The 176 deaths this April represent a 43% increase over April of 2020 when 123 deaths were reported over the month. It was also the 14th consecutive month with more than 100 lives lost to illicit drugs across B.C.
April’s reported deaths mean that an average of 5.9 people died per day throughout the month.
2021’s death rate for suspected illicit drug toxicity in the province sits at 39.3 per 100,000 residents.
For Interior Health, 27 people died from toxic drugs in the health authority in April. Drug toxicity has claimed the lives of 106 people in the region so far in 2021.
Only one death was reported in the Kootenay Boundary throughout the month, adding up to 10 so far in the year.
Last year, drug toxicity was behind the deaths of 21 Kootenay Boundary residents.
The Coroners Service said the drug supply’s toxicity has continued to increase, as fentanyl has been detected in 86% of suspected illicit drug deaths this year.
Carfentanil, a more potent analog of fentanyl has been found in 62 samples in 2021. This is almost as many as were detected in all of 2020, with 65.
The report also notes an increase in benzodiazepines, which were detected in 57% of samples in April, almost four times as much as July of 2020, with 15%.
“These latest numbers emphasize the toxicity of the illicit drug supply in B.C.,” Lapointe said. “We know that substance use disorder is a complex health issue, and those experiencing it need meaningful and compassionate services and supports. Far too often, we hear from families who have lost a loved one that no help was available despite desperate searches over months or years. It is critical that harm reduction services, including safe supply, are accessible where and when people need them, and that recovery services are evidence-based and accountable.”