Naloxone is used to neutralize opioid overdose. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)

Naloxone is used to neutralize opioid overdose. (Jenna Hauck/The Progress file photo)

Toxic drug supply claims 184 lives in June: BC Coroners Service

The unregulated toxic drug supply claimed 184 lives in June as the crisis is responsible for over 1,200 deaths over the first six months of the year in B.C., according to data from the BC Coroners Service.

In the East Kootenay, 10 deaths have been reported in the first half of 2023, while 19 deaths have been reported in the Kootenay-Boundary region. Though the year is halfway through, the number of deaths reported in smaller communities such as Cranbrook are released once every four months.

“British Columbia is continuing to lose community members at record rates as a result of the toxicity of the unregulated drug market ,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner. “Illicit fentanyl continues to drive the crisis, which is causing deaths in large and small municipalities, towns and cities across the province. This health emergency is not confined to one neighbourhood or one demographic. Anyone accessing an illicit substance is at risk of serious harm or death.”

Fentanyl or a fentanyl analogue was detected in 90 per cent of expedited toxicological testing in June, while roughly 75 per cent of tests determined the presence of a stimulant.

Almost all unregulated drug deaths were the result of mixed drug toxicity, according to the BC Coroners Service.

“As coroners, we speak every day to families who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” Lapointe said. “Our agency continues to recommend rapid expansion of a safer drug supply throughout the province to reduce the significant harms associated with the toxic illicit drug market and prevent future deaths.”

Jennifer Whiteside, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, acknowledged the “irreplaceable losses” of lives claimed by the toxic drug crisis.

“Through these challenging times, our province is deeply thankful to those working on the frontlines – paramedics, police officers, peers and other first responders – who are saving lives every single day under the most challenging circumstances Their work is heroic and has prevented countless more deaths,” said Whiteside, in a statement.