The BC Coroners Service said 174 toxic drug deaths were reported across the province in August.
B.C. government officials said seven people were killed by drug poisoning in the Kootenay Boundary region, while two died in the East Kootenay.
“We are continuing to lose members of our communities in heartbreaking numbers as a result of the toxicity of the illicit drug market,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “No town, neighbourhood or family is immune from this crisis and as the years of this public-health emergency go by, more and more British Columbians are experiencing the devastating loss of a friend, colleague or family member to the illicit drug supply.”
The Kootenays reported 49 deaths in 2023, up to the end of August. Across the province, BC Coroners Service officials said more 1,600 B.C. residents were lost to toxic, unregulated drugs in the first eight months of 2023.
According to the BC Coroners Service, drug toxicity remains the leading cause of death in British Columbia for persons aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and diseases combined.
“The relentlessness and scale of this public health crisis requires a proportionate response,” Lapointe said. “The BC Coroners Service continues to recommend urgent, collaborative action on the part of ministries and health authorities to co-ordinate a provincewide continuum of care that saves lives. Improvements in the quality and reach of harm reduction and evidence-based treatment services are essential, as is the critical need to ensure that those at risk of dying can access safer, regulated drugs. If we cannot implement these changes, our loved ones will continue to die.”
The BC Coroners Service officials said they have continued screening for safer supply-related substances in post-mortem tests.
“Hydromorphone has been detected in 3% of expedited toxicological testing in 2023. Conversely, illicit fentanyl has been present in 85% of such tests,” said the BC Coroners Service. “It should also be noted that safer supply accounts for only 14% of hydromorphone prescribing in the province, and the vast majority of hydromorphone prescribing is for pain-related purposes.”