Each naloxone kit has three syringes, three vials of naloxone, a pair of latex gloves, airway breathing apparatus and alcohol swabs. (Jenna Hauck photo)

Coroners Service reports 176 toxic drug deaths in May

One death reported in the East Kootenay, two in the Kootenay Boundary region

There were 176 deaths due to unregulated toxic drugs across the province in May, representing approximately 5.7 fatal overdoses per day, according to the latest update from the BC Coroners Service.

There was one death in the East Kootenay during May, for a total of eight in the region over the first five months of the year, according to the report. There were 31 deaths across Interior Health’s jurisdiction in the same time frame.

Provincially, there have been 1,018 deaths so far this calendar year due to the toxic drug supply, with fentanyl detected in 85 per cent of those cases.

“BC Coroner’s Service findings confirm that this public-health emergency continues to be driven by illicit fentanyl,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Expedited testing in 2023 is positive for fentanyl in almost nine out of every 10 results, nearly double the positivity rate of methamphetamine and cocaine, the next most commonly identified substances. As long as people are reliant on the profit-driven unregulated market to access the substances they need, their lives are at risk.”

The BC Coroners Service also released a analysis of youth toxicity drug deaths between 2017-2022, which identified 142 deaths due to toxic drugs of individuals 19 years of age or younger.

Unnatural deaths due to unregulated toxic drugs have now become the leading cause of death for youth in the province.

In a statement, mental health and addictions minister Jennifer Whiteside acknowledged the lives lost and the government’s response, particularly noting youth supports through the Foundry network.

“In May, we lost 176 people to the toxic illicit drug supply,” said Whiteside. “My heart goes out to everyone who is grieving the unimaginable loss of a friend, family member, loved one, neighbour or co-worker. Every person lost to a toxic drug poisoning leaves a hole in our communities.

”Every day, I hear stories of the devastating impact the toxic drug crisis is having on families and our communities in B.C. These stories strengthen my resolve to continue working harder every single day to put an end to this crisis.”

The province declared a health emergency in 2016 in response to rising unregulated toxic drug deaths, which has since claimed thousands of lives.

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