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Over 1,000 British Columbians Died Due to Toxic Illicit Drugs in First Half of 2021

Victoria – The staggering numbers keep getting worse. This on the heels of another Overdose Alert for the Fraser Valley. Ironically, these new numbers were released on August 31 – International Overdose Awareness Day.

At least 1,011 lives were lost to suspected illicit drug toxicity in B.C. between January and June 2021, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service.

Illicit drug overdose death report (data to June 30, 2021):

Illicit drug toxicity: Type of drug data report (data to June 30, 2021):

Fentanyl-detected death report:

“The deaths of more than 1,000 British Columbians in the first six months of 2021 is a tragic reminder that the toxic illicit drug supply remains a significant ongoing threat to public health and safety in communities throughout our province,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service.

In June, 159 British Columbians died as a result of drug toxicity, the ninth consecutive month in which at least 150 British Columbians died as a result of the toxic drug supply. The total number of lives lost between January and June is the highest recorded in the first six months of a calendar year. Drug toxicity is now the leading cause of death in B.C. for those aged 19 to 39 and is second in terms of reducing total potential years of life.

As with previous months, the illicit drug supply in B.C. is both variable and increasingly toxic, with extreme fentanyl concentrations and carfentanil showing up more frequently in toxicology testing. Post-mortem testing shows that fentanyl continues to be the substance involved in most drug-toxicity deaths – 85% in the first six months of 2021. Cocaine, methamphetamine and etizolam are also present in significant numbers of deaths. Data confirms, as it has throughout this public health emergency, that illicit substances are driving this health crisis. Prescribed safe supply is not playing a role in the ongoing drug-toxicity crisis.

  • 71% of those who died as a result of suspected drug toxicity in 2021 were aged between 30 and 59, and 80% were male.
  • By health authority in 2021, the highest number of illicit drug-toxicity deaths were in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health (342 and 283 deaths), making up 62% of all such deaths during this period.
    • The highest rates of death were in Vancouver Coastal Health (46 deaths per 100,000 individuals) and Northern Health (45 per 100,000). Overall, the rate in B.C. is 39 deaths per 100,000 individuals.

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