Another 171 overdose deaths in B.C. for September from toxic drug supply: coroner

VICTORIA — Nearly six people a day are dying of overdoses in British Columbia, a toll the corner says puts the province on track to surpass 2,000 drug deaths for another year.

The service says 171 people died of toxic drugs in September, bringing the total for the year to 1,644, the largest number ever recorded for the first nine months of a calendar year.

A statement from Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C. and second only to cancers for years of life lost.

Lapointe notes that recommendations made by a provincial committee on health last week echoed those of a recent death-review panel, emphasizing the need for a framework on treatment and recovery services.

The figure is released as Carolyn Bennett, the federal minister of mental health and addictions, announced $5 million for chronic pain resources Canada-wide, saying many of those who died from overdoses in B.C. had previously asked for help for their pain.

Lapointe says illicit drugs are killing both those who use occasionally and those who are substance-dependent.

"Individuals who have been abstinent for a period of time or those who normally use stimulants are at increased risk. Their opioid tolerance is low and the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit supply is high."

About two-thirds of those who have died in 2022 were between the ages of 30 and 59, and 79 per cent of them were male.

The coroner says at least 10,505 British Columbians have died since the public-health emergency into overdose deaths was declared in April 2016.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2022.

The Canadian Press