VICTORIA, B.C. -The BC Coroners Service has reported 158 toxic illicit drug deaths for March, bringing the total number of deaths in the province to 498 for 2021.

In Northern B.C., there were 12 illicit drug toxicity deaths.

For the third month in a row, more than five British Columbians lost their lives per day for the month of March.

“Once again, we are reminded of the incredible toll that the toxic drug emergency is having on communities throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service. “The illicit drug supply in British Columbia is volatile and unpredictable, and anyone using a substance from this unregulated market is vulnerable to serious injury or death.”

In March, by Health Authority, the highest number of illicit drug toxicity deaths were in the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities, with 171 and 137 deaths, respectively.

The highest rates in 2021 were Northern Health, 57 deaths per 100,000 people, and Vancouver Coastal Health, 45 deaths per 100,000.

Like months prior, the drug supply is continuing to be volatile in terms of variability and toxicity. Carfentanil was found in 18 of the deaths from March, bringing the total number of Carfentanil-related deaths in 2021 to 48. To put it into perspective, from January to December 2020, it was found in 65 deaths.