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814 people died from toxic drugs in the first 4 months of 2023: BC Coroners Service

Public Safety Ministry says fentanyl has been found in 79% of deaths this year
Protesters stop at the intersection of Powell and Main streets in Vancouver to listen to speeches on April 14, 2023 during an event marking the seventh anniversary of the toxic drug deaths in B.C. (Lauren Collins photo)

April 2023 was the 31st consecutive month in which at least 150 people died from unregulated drugs in B.C. – and the 13th month in which more than 200 deaths were reported.

In April, 206 British Columbians died. That’s about 7 people dying every day, according to a statement from the BC Coroners Service and the Public Safety Ministry. There have been 814 deaths so far in 2023.

“As has been the case throughout the crisis, the illicit drug supply remains highly volatile, challenging people’s best efforts to use safely and challenging life-saving responses.”

The statement adds that fentanyl has been detected in about 79 per cent of deaths in 2023, down slightly from 86 per cent in 2022.

“Illicit fentanyl continues to be the main and most lethal driver of B.C.’s drug-toxicity public-health emergency,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner

There has also been an increase in the presence of benzodiazepines, which is largely the result of enhancements to benzodiazepine testing by the Provincial Toxicology Centre.

This drug poisoning crisis is the direct result of an unregulated drug market. Members of our communities are dying because non-prescribed, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is poisoning them on an unprecedented scale,” explained Lapointe.

April marked the seventh anniversary of the toxic drug public health emergency. Since the start of the public health emergency, at least 12,046 British Columbians have died due to an unregulated supply.

READ MORE: ‘Without a regulated supply, everyone just dies’: Parade marks 7th year of toxic drug crisis

B.C. was the first jurisdiction in Canada to declare a public health emergency over increasing overdoses on April 14, 2016. Overdose deaths had reached 474 in 2015, a 30 per cent increase from the year before, and the government said more people were dying every month.

Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside said drug use is often the symptom of many underlying causes, including trauma.

“Our government is building an integrated health-care system to ensure people have access to the treatment and recovery services they need when they make the brave decision to reach out for help.”

READ MORE: Toxic drug deaths response, care now top priority for First Nations Health Authority

READ MORE: First Nations ‘particularly and disproportionately’ overrepresented among B.C. toxic drug deaths


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Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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