VICTORIA — British Columbia’s chief coroner says the province has lost more than 10,000 lives to illicit drugs since the province declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

Lisa Lapointe says the province is on track to lose another record number of people to the toxic drug supply this year, with the number of deaths in the first half of 2022 surpassing those of the same period in 2021.

New data from the coroner’s service says at least 1,095 residents are believed to have died from January to June this year, at an average of six deaths per day.

The report found more than three-quarters of the those who died this year have been male, and most were between the ages of 30 and 59. 

The province says illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C.

In June, Ottawa approved a three-year exception to federal drug laws, and from next year, B.C. will become the first province where people won’t be arrested or charged for possessing up to 2.5 grams of certain illicit drugs.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 16, 2022.

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