Overdose deaths for May reach new heights in B.C., says chief coroner

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VICTORIA — The British Columbia chief coroner says the province is on pace to lose another record number of people to toxic drugs this year.

There were at least 195 deaths from overdoses in May, the highest number ever recorded in the calendar month and a 20 per cent increase over the number of deaths in April.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says in a statement the illicit drug supply in B.C. is volatile and inconsistent, and expedited toxicology testing since July 2020 shows that 91 per cent of submitted samples have detected fentanyl or its analogues.

In at least 44 per cent of the cases, benzodiazepine was detected, which the coroner says doesn't respond to naloxone and makes reversing an overdose very difficult.

At least 940 people died from toxic drugs in B.C. between January and May, which is also a record number for the start of a calendar year.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson says the numbers are "devastating" and the province is working to build and fund a system to deliver treatment and recovery options across B.C.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 14, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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