A new report by the BC Coroners Service reveals the shocking extent of BC’s growing opioid crisis in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the report, 162 people died from illicit drug toxicity in October alone, marking the fifth month in 2020 that reported over 160 deaths. BC has seen 1,386 deaths as a result of drug toxicity so far in 2020.
When compared to 2019, the death toll this October was 116% higher than the rate during the same month last year.
When broken down on a per day basis, the death toll accounts to approximately 5.2 deaths each day.
“Challenges during COVID-19, such as access to key harm-reduction services and the toxic drug supply, including the extreme concentration of illicit fentanyl, are resulting in continuing significant and tragic loss of life across the province,” said BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe.
“Now more than ever, we must remove the stigma of drug use and remove the shame people feel, which keeps them from seeking help or telling friends and family.”
The coroner’s report also mentions that toxicology tests on the drug supply show an increase in cases related to extreme fentanyl concentrations from April to October of this year.
According to the report, fentanyl was detected in 87% of all drug toxicity deaths in 2020.
Men were especially hard hit by the pandemic with males accounting for 80% of all deaths by drug toxicity this year. However, drug toxicity death rates have increased in October for both males and females respectively.
Recently, the City of Vancouver announced that it is seeking to be the first Canadian jurisdiction to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of hard drugs as a means to combat the opioid epidemic.
“Personal possession and use of drugs is not a criminal justice issue, it is a health issue,” said Mayor Kennedy Stewart.
“It is time to end the stigma around substance use, help connect more of our neighbours to health care, and save lives.”