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Last month was B.C.’s deadliest-ever February for illicit drug overdoses

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February marked the 11th month in a row that more than 100 people died from a suspected illicit drug overdose in British Columbia.

In its latest update on the drug crisis, the BC Coroners Service said 155 people lost their lives to drugs last month, an all-time high for the month of February and an average of 5.5 people per day.

The figure was an increase of 107 per cent over February 2020 and just shy of the record 165 deaths reported in January.

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It was the second consecutive month that B.C. saw more than five people die a day from drugs.

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“This data emphasizes the alarming increase in the toxicity of the illicit drug supply throughout B.C.,” B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a media release.

“Across the province, the risk of serious harm or death is very real for anyone using a substance purchased from the illicit market. Decisive action is urgently needed to ensure an accessible, regulated safe supply and to provide people with the supervised consumption, treatment and recovery services they need.”

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

 

In a statement, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson called the tally a “heartbreaking loss” and pledged more treatment options and to push the federal government towards decriminalization.

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“In 2019, before the pandemic, we brought overdose deaths down for the first time since 2012,” Malcomlson said.

“According to the BC Centre for Disease Control, our collective efforts to add more supervised consumption services, increased access to naloxone and treatment options made a difference and saved lives. We brought deaths down before and we’ll do it again.

The coroners service also highlighted a concerning growth in fatalities among older adults. Fifteen per cent of deaths were people older than 60, while four in 10 were people over the age of 50.

Men continued to be disproportionately affected, accounting for 81 per cent of deaths.

Between 2018 and 2020, the coroners service said fentanyl was involved in 87 per cent of all drug deaths. Cocaine was involved in 48.7 per cent and methamphetamine or amphetamines were involved in 38.4 per cent.

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

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria have seen the highest total number of deaths this year, while Fort Nelson, Quesnel and Keremeos had the highest rate of fatalities per capita.

Most deaths continue to occur indoors (88 per cent) with 58 per cent in private homes and 30 per cent in other residences including social housing, SROs, shelters and other indoor locations.

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