Northeast BC reports 26 illicit drug overdoses in 2022

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FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Northeast BC reported 26 illicit drug overdoses in 2022, according to the latest BC Coroners Service report.

Last year marked the third-highest year for overdose deaths in the region behind 2021 (29) and 2020 (32).

Northern Health had 181 drug toxicity deaths in 2022 — the most deaths in the region reported since 2012.

The Northern Health authority had the highest death rate, with 60 deaths per 100,000 people. B.C. recorded 43 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022.

Provincially, there were 2,272 suspected drug toxicity deaths — the second largest number of suspected deaths recorded in a calendar year, behind 2021, with 2,306 deaths.

“British Columbians across the province are continuing to experience tremendous harm and loss as a result of the province’s toxic illicit drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.

“Our province continues to lose an average of six lives every day, and many more people experience serious health consequences as a result of the unpredictable, unregulated drug supply. Death due to drug toxicity remains the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.”

An average of 6.2 people died each day in BC of an illicit drug overdose in 2022.

The months with the most overdose deaths in 2022 were January (213) and December (210).

“Those dying are our family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues. Urgent action is required to reduce the significant risks that tens of thousands of British Columbians are currently facing,” Lapointe said.

In 2022, 70 per cent of those who died were aged 30 to 59, and 79 per cent were male.

Most illicit drug overdoses occurred inside (84 per cent), most in private residences. The rest occurred outside, including vehicles, sidewalks, parks, and other venues.

“The reality is that these deaths are preventable. Toxicology data confirms that the drug supply in British Columbia is increasingly volatile and life-threatening,” Lapointe said.

“The Standing Committee on Health and two BC Coroners Service death review panels are in agreement that we must rapidly increase access to a safer supply of substances while, at the same time, building out a robust system of evidence-based care.”

According to the corners service, one death has been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites. The report states that there is no indication that prescribed safe supply contributed to illicit drug deaths.

The ongoing opioid crisis continues to spiral out of control after being declared a public health emergency in B.C. in 2016.

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