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VICTORIA, B.C. – The BC Coroners Service has reported that 2020 was the worst year for toxic illicit drug deaths.

In Northern B.C. for 2020, 132 people died from illicit drugs.

Provincially, there were 1,716 deaths in 2020. In 2019, the deaths were 984, which is a 74 per cent increase.

The number of deaths in 2020 equals around 4.7 deaths per day; in 2019, it was 2.7.

Toxic illicit drugs have claimed more lives in B.C. than motor-vehicle crashes, homicides, suicides, and prescription-drug-related deaths combined.

“The impacts of COVID-19 highlighted the immensely precarious situation of those experiencing problematic substance use in our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Decades of criminalization, an increasingly toxic illicit drug market, and the lack of timely access to evidence-based treatment and recovery services have resulted in the loss of thousands of lives in B.C. It’s clear that urgent change is needed to prevent future deaths and the resulting grief and loss so many families and communities have experienced across our province.”

By Health Authority, in 2020, the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths were in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities, with 568 and 472 deaths, respectively.

The highest rates in 2020 were Northern Health, 46 deaths per 100,000 people, and Vancouver Coastal Health, 39 deaths per 100,000.

In 2020, fentanyl or its counterparts were found in more than 80 per cent of the deceased. Cocaine and methamphetamine were the next common drug.

 

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