The BC Corners Service is reporting that 176 people in B.C. died of suspected drug overdoses in April, bringing the total number of deaths recorded in 2021 to 680.
The province is on pace to surpass the record number of such deaths in a year, which occurred in 2020, when there were 1,726 overdose deaths.
"Once again, we're reminded that the scale of this public health emergency is truly unprecedented," chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said. "I offer my heartfelt condolences to every family in the province that is experiencing the unimaginable pain of sudden and unexpected loss. Every life lost to toxic drugs in our province is a profound tragedy. Every one of them mattered and every one of them will be missed."
The 176 lives lost are a record for the month of April and represent a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in April 2020. April was the 14th consecutive month in which more than 100 British Columbians have died from suspected illicit drug toxicity and raises the provincial rate of deaths for 2021 to 39.3 per 100,000 residents.
Kamloops recorded seven suspected overdose deaths in April, bringing to 19 the number of such deaths this year. In 2020, Kamloops had 61 deaths, the most ever recorded in a year.
The coroners service said the toxicity of the drug supply in B.C. has continued to increase. Fentanyl has been detected in 86 per cent of deaths this year, while carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, has been found in 62 samples in 2021, almost as many as were detected in all of 2020 (65). The reporting notes a continued increase in the presence of benzodiazapenes, which were detected in 57 per cent of samples in April, almost four times the amount reported in July 2020 (15 per cent).
"These latest numbers emphasize the toxicity of the illicit drug supply in B.C.," Lapointe said. "We know that substance-use disorder is a complex health issue and those experiencing it need meaningful and compassionate services and supports. Far too often, we hear from families who have lost a loved one that no help was available despite desperate searches over months or years. It is critical that harm-reduction services, including safe supply, are accessible where and when people need them, and that recovery services are evidence based and accountable."
• Vancouver has recorded the most deaths this year, with 156, followed by Surrey (85), Victoria (53), Burnaby (27), Abbotsford (26), Chilliwack (20) and Kamloops (19).
• The number of illicit drug toxicity deaths in April 2021 was about 5.9 deaths per day.
• Males have accounted for 79 per cent of deaths in 2021.
• In 2021, 70 per cent of those dying were between the ages of 30 and 59.
• The proportion of deaths of those 50 years of age and older has steadily increased over the past six years. In 2021, 39 per cent of deaths have been 50 years or over.
• No deaths have been reported at supervised drug use or drug overdose prevention sites.
• BC Alcohol and Drug Information and Referral Service: Call 1-800-663-1441 toll-free anywhere in B.C. Available 24 hours a day.
• HealthLink BC: Call 8-1-1 (toll-free) if you need non-emergency health information or advice. Available 24 hours a day.
• Support groups or self-help groups. For a listing of support groups in British Columbia, call 310-6789 (no area code needed) 24 hours a day.