The BC Coroners Service has published updated reports on illicit drug toxicity deaths and fentanyl-detected drug deaths to Oct. 31, 2020, with 162 illicit drug toxicity deaths reported in October.
The latest data equate to five people per day losing their lives to illicit drug overdoses.
"This is the fifth month this year with more than 160 suspected illicit drug deaths reported to the BC Coroners Service and more than double the number of people who died as a result of a toxic drug supply in October 2019," said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
In the Interior Health Authority, there have now been 216 illicit drug deaths after 31 deaths were reported in October alone. In 2019, there were 138 deaths.
Broken down further there were 8 illicit drug deaths during October in the Thompson Cariboo health service delivery area which encompasses Merritt. To date, there have now been 83 deaths more than double the 40 deaths recorded in 2019.
"We are continuing to see record-breaking numbers of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply in our province, and it's taking a toll on families and communities in this dual health emergency," Lapointe said. "Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province. Our hearts go out to those grieving the loss of family members, friends, and colleagues.
"We encourage clinicians to support those at risk of overdose by prescribing safe supply and reducing the numbers of lives lost to toxic substances. We also continue to advocate for an accessible, evidence-based, and accountable treatment and recovery system for anyone experiencing problematic substance use who is seeking this medical assistance."
The number of people who died from illicit drug toxicity in October 2020 (162) represents a 116% increase over the number of deaths in October 2019 (75). The BC Coroners Service has detected a sustained increase of illicit drug toxicity deaths since March 2020. The province has now recorded eight consecutive months with over 100 illicit drug toxicity deaths.
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