BC Coroner reports tragic surge in fatal overdoses, 182 in April alone

In the past eight years since the province declared the public health emergency, over 14,000 people in BC have died from toxic drugs, including 763 in the first third of 2024.

182 deaths in April from toxic drugs: BC Coroners Service
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The British Columbia Coroners Service reported 182 deaths in April from drug overdoses.

The service said in a statement that the tally represented a drop of nearly a quarter compared to April 2023, though the "risk posed by unregulated drug supply remains very high."

In the past eight years since the province declared the public health emergency, over 14,000 people in BC have died from toxic drugs, including 763 in the first third of 2024.

The coroner said that fentanyl continues to be the primary cause of overdoses, with the drug being detected in 82 percent of toxicological tests.

Overdose, referred to as "unregulated drug toxicity," is the leading cause of death for individuals aged 10 to 59 in the province, surpassing the combined total of deaths from homicides, suicides, accidents, and natural diseases.

70 percent of those who died in April were male, though the death rate for females has nearly doubled since 2020, increasing from 13 to 23 per 100,000 in 2024.

“We’re taking action to build up services that we know work for people and we’ll continue to look for more ways to connect people to the care they need,” Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside said, reports Global News.

“Because for as many pathways as there are into addiction, we need just as many pathways toward healing and recovery.”

The latest figures released on Thursday follow Premier David Eby's announcement of Dr. Daniel Vigo's appointment as the province’s first chief scientific adviser for psychiatry, toxic drugs, and concurrent disorders.

Vigo's role is to enhance care for individuals with overlapping mental health and addiction issues, as well as brain injuries resulting from toxic drug poisoning.

On Wednesday, Eby noted that some overdose survivors sustain life-altering brain injuries that impair their ability to function.

He also highlighted that patients with overlapping needs in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside frequently experience repeated health emergencies.

612 patients went to emergency rooms 10 times or more last year, including one person who made 180 visits, Eby said.

Doctor Julian Somers, clinical psychologist and professor of health sciences at Simon Fraser University, testified before the Health Committee last week discussing BC's dangerous drug legalization. He detailed conflicts of interest and profiteering on the backs of those suffering from addiction issues. 

"This approach has been driven by an influential group of current and former health officials whose financial interests overlap with their advocacy," he said. 

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