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Illicit drugs claim 195 lives in May

940 lives have been lost so far this year, including 39 in Kamloops
illicit drug deaths May 2022

There were 195 lives lost due to toxic illicit drugs in May, according to the latest update from the BC Coroners Service released on Thursday.

The preliminary report shows B.C. is on track for its worst ever year since the opioid epidemic was declared in 2016.

"The illicit drug supply in this province continues to be volatile and inconsistent, and presents a significant risk to anyone who uses drugs. I strongly urge those purchasing illicit substances to take every available precaution to protect yourself," said the province's chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

Lapointe also advised drug users to start with a small amount of a drug and ensure someone else is present to provide naloxone and call emergency services, if necessary.

Between January and May, 940 British Columbians have died due to drug toxicity. That figure includes 39 deaths in Kamloops.

A testing protocol implemented in July 2020 shows 91 per cent of drug samples submitted contained fentanyl and/or its analogues, while 73 per cent had at least one stimulant, 19 per cent had contained at least one another opioid, and 44 per cent contained at least one benzodiazepine.

Toxic drugs are the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C.

A death review panel recently convened by the coroners service made several recommendations to the provincial government in March. The recommendations included a provincial framework for safe-supply distribution, time-based action plans and a framework for establishing a substance-use system of care. The coroners office said no response has been received on its recommendations.

"Six people a day are dying due to the toxic drug crisis in this province and it's nothing short of tragic. But it's the reason we must persevere and continue the vital work of reducing the risk of toxic drug poisonings and saving lives," said Premier John Horgan in a statement released Thursday.

The premier said the province is "urgently working" to build and fund a mental health and addictions system that includes treatment and recovery options across the province.

"We know there is much more to do, and we won't stop working until we finally put an end to this terrible crisis," he said.