City on pace for record illicit drug deaths

Deaths from illicit drugs in the city edged closer to record-setting proportions last month.

The year-to-date total stood at 43 as of the end of October, according to a monthly update from the B.C. Coroners Service issued Wednesday and increase of five from the month before. The city appears on pace to surpass the record 51 deaths recorded in 2018.

Four of the deaths last month involved drugs in which fentanyl was detected and raised that year-to-date total to 33. Fourty-six such deaths were reported in 2018.

Since the start of 2018, there have been 127 drug-related deaths in the city and the rate per 100,000 people stands at 44.8. Only Hope and Vancouver have higher rates.

Across B.C., it was the fifth month this year for which more than 160 suspected illicit drug deaths were reported to the BCCS and and more than double the number of people who died as a result of illicit drugs in October 2019.

"We are continuing to see record-breaking numbers of people dying in B.C. due to an unsafe drug supply in our province, and it's taking a toll on families and communities in this dual health emergency," chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.

"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. Our hearts go out to those grieving the loss of family members, friends and colleagues.

"We encourage clinicians to support those at risk of overdose by prescribing safe supply and reducing the numbers of lives lost to toxic substances. We also continue to advocate for an accessible, evidence-based and accountable treatment and recovery system for anyone experiencing problematic substance use who is seeking this medical assistance."

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