An organizer displays a naloxone kit that people can pick up for free as International Overdose Awareness Day training seminar takes place at Centennial Square in Victoria, B.C., on Saturday August 31, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Nearly 6 people died from overdoses each day in June as B.C. sees continued spike

The death toll from an increasing toxic drug supply killed 175 people in B.C. in June

B.C. has reached a grim milestone, seeing record numbers of illicit drug overdoses for a second straight month.

In June, nearly 12 people died of a fatal overdose every two days across the province for a total of 175 lives lost.

In the first six months of 2020, B.C. has seen 728 deaths due to the toxic street drug supply. That’s compared to 543 during the same time period last year.

A majority of the deaths, or 70 per cent, are people aged 19 to 49 years old.

Broken down by health authority, there have been 488 overdoses in Vancouver Coastal, 556 in Fraser Health, 254 in Interior Health, 296 on Vancouver Island and 115 in the Northern Health region.

Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria continue to see the lions share of overdose deaths.

The concerning death toll comes as the province continues to grapple with two ongoing health crisis: the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis.

In a statement, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said that the novel coronavirus has limited access to harm reduction services and called on doctors to follow the province’s guidance on prescribing legal opioids to drug users to support those at risk of overdose on the toxic drug supply.

“For those using substances – opioids or otherwise – please make sure you use only in the presence of someone who will call for immediate help if you need it, use at an overdose prevention or supervised consumption site, and have your drugs checked before using, if you can,” Lapointe said.

“The drug supply in our province is highly toxic and the risk of using alone is too high. Buddying up could save your life.”

Following the 170 deaths in May, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the pandemic has worsened the toxicity of the street-level drug supply, exacerbated by social contact restrictions forcing many to use drugs alone.

In an emotional address, the top doctor urged family and friends to reach out to drug users in their lives.

“Check up on your friends. Check up on those people, those workmates that you have that you may not be seeing as often. This is another time while we need to, while physically apart, connect with each other and support each other.”

More to come.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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