March 5th, 2024

Record number of people died from illicit drugs in B.C. last year, coroner says

By The Canadian Press on January 24, 2024.

A Naloxone anti-overdose kit is held in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

VICTORIA – The BC Coroners Service says there were 2,511 suspected illicit drug deaths last year, the highest annual toll ever recorded.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says close to 14,000 people have died since the province declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

Lapointe says the surging death toll is a direct result of the powerful opioid fentanyl, which continues to be the main driver in drug deaths.

She says 70 per cent of those who died last year were between the ages of 30 and 59, and more than three quarters were male.

Lapointe says thousands of people have died preventable deaths since the emergency was declared, with a focus on policing and punishment instead of underlying reasons for drug use such as pain, trauma and mental health issues.

She says the highest rates of death were in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and in Hope, a community of about 6,000 at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2024.

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