Just over five people a day on average in BC lost their lives to a suspected drug overdose in April.
According to data released by the Coroners Service this morning (Thursday), 161 people passed away due to drug toxicity – a 2% drop from March (165).
More than 26% of those who died in April were female, continuing a shifting trend that began earlier in the year.
Northern Health saw 16 illicit drug deaths during April.
So far this year, our health authority has seen 59 fatalities with 27 of them in Prince George.
“Coroners’ investigations continue to document the volatility and inconsistency of the illicit drug supply in our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
“The reality is that every time someone uses drugs purchased from the unregulated market, their life is at risk. Until a safer, regulated supply is widely accessible, I encourage those using drugs to use only in the presence of someone who can provide help and call for medical assistance if that’s required. Anyone using illicit substances, whether they are regular or occasional drug users and whether they know their dealer or not, is currently at risk from the unpredictable, unregulated supply.”
PG has the sixth-highest number of overdose deaths by city, trailing only Vancouver (171), Surrey (77), Victoria (49), Abbotsford, and Kamloops (32).
Furthermore, Northern Health has the highest drug toxicity death rate among all the health authorities at 57.8 per 100,000 people.
The province-wide rate of death is 41 per 100,000 individuals.
In terms of Health Service Delivery Area, the Northern Interior, which includes PG-Quesnel-Burns Lake and the Robson Valley has the third-highest drug toxicity death rate of 63.9– only Vancouver (70.2) and Thompson Cariboo (66.4) ranked higher.
The Coroners Service noted that 73% of those dying so far in 2022 are between the ages of 30 and 59.
“The drug toxicity death review panel report released earlier this year contains advice focused on urgent measures to reduce the numbers of those dying as a result of drug toxicity in B.C.,” Lapointe said.
“The panel highlighted access to a safer drug supply as the most critical life-saving need in this crisis, along with a co-ordinated, goal-driven provincial strategy and a comprehensive continuum of substance-use care. BC Coroners Service data for the first four months of 2022 shows us that our province is on the path to yet another tragic milestone in terms of lives lost. I am hopeful that the implementation of the panel’s recommendations, on an urgent basis, will stop these preventable deaths.”
So far this year, 722 people have passed away province-wide from illicit drugs.
No fatalities were reported at supervised consumption or drug prevention sites.