Experts provide recommendations to B.C. Coroners to reduce deaths from illicit drugs

VICTORIA, B.C. – A panel of experts for the B.C. Coroners Service is calling for increased access to a safer s…

VICTORIA, B.C. – A panel of experts for the B.C. Coroners Service is calling for increased access to a safer supply of drugs and the creation of an evidence-based system of care to better support substance users and reduce the increasing number of illicit drug-related deaths in the province.

The recommendations are included in a report, titled: BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths, which examines the circumstances surrounding 6,007 illicit drug toxicity deaths between August 1st, 2017 to July 31st, 2021.

The report reveals that the main cause of these deaths was the increasingly toxic and unpredictable drug supply in B.C. and that the prohibition of illicit drugs is forcing substance users to access the unregulated market, leading to increased numbers of substance-related emergencies and deaths.

The panel’s advice to the chief coroner included three recommendations, including ensuring a safer drug supply to those at risk of dying from the toxic illicit drug supply, developing a 30/60/90-day Illicit Drug Toxicity Action Plan with ongoing monitoring, and establishing an evidence-based continuum of care.

“This report includes realistic, actionable recommendations that the panel believes will reduce the number of people dying due to toxic, illicit drugs in our province,” said Michael Egilson, death review panel chair.

“We recognize that many of the timelines in the report are aggressive, but COVID-19 has demonstrated how swiftly policy-makers can act when lives are at stake – and we know that every month of inaction equates to hundreds more lives lost.”

The province says the chief coroner has forwarded each of the panel’s recommendations to the relevant ministries and organizations.

The findings reviewed by the panel included:

Between August 1st, 2020 to July 31st, 2021, Northern Health had the highest rate of illicit drug toxicity deaths at 48 per 100,000 residents, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health at 44 deaths per 100,000.


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