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B.C. records January’s largest ever total for lives lost due to illicit drugs

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The grim toll of the overdose crisis just keeps accelerating in the province. January was the worst-ever month with 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths becoming the tenth month in a row with more than 100 overdose deaths – Mar 2, 2021

The BC Coroners Service has reported 165 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in January — the largest ever number for that month.

An average of 5.3 people died each day last month due to the toxic drug supply in B.C., the coroners service said Tuesday, for a death rate of 38.1 per 100,000 residents.

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Kelowna frontline RCMP officers dealing with increasing number of overdose calls – Mar 2, 2021

January was also the tenth consecutive month in which more than 100 deaths were attributed to suspected illicit drug toxicity.

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Read more: B.C. reports record number of illicit drug overdoses in 2020

“These figures are heartbreaking, both in scale and for the number of families who are grieving the loss of a loved one,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said.

“In the fifth year of this public health emergency, there is virtually no community in the province that hasn’t been touched by this devastating loss of life.”

Last month, the coroners service announced 2020 was the province’s worst year yet in terms of lives lost due to illicit drug overdoses.

There were 1,716 deaths recorded last year — a 74-per-cent increase over the 984 deaths recorded in 2019.

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On average, 4.7 people died per day in British Columbia last year due to an illicit drug overdose, compared to the 2.7 deaths in 2019.

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Almost one in five of the suspected deaths in January noted extreme levels of fentanyl concentrations (greater than 50 micrograms/litre). This is the largest number recorded to date.

Additionally, there were 14 deaths in which carfentanil, a more lethal analogue of fentanyl, was detected. It is an increase from the December total of nine, and the largest monthly figure since May 2019.

Read more: Vancouver drug tester says nearly half of all heroin that comes in contains fentanyl

“We’re particularly concerned about the toxicity of the drugs detected in many of the deaths recorded in January,” Lapointe said.

“The findings suggest that the already unstable drug supply in B.C. is becoming even deadlier, underscoring the urgent need for supervised consumption options, prescribing for safe supply, and accessible treatment and recovery services.”

January’s number of deaths represent a 104-per-cent increase the same month last year, where 81 deaths were recorded.

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