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Over 1,400 Drug Overdose Fatalities Recorded in BC within the Initial 7 Months of 2023

In July alone at least 198 British Columbians died from illicit drug overdoses, according to the BC Coroners Service.

Preliminary data released by the coroners’ service on Aug. 29 shows that July is the 13th consecutive month that B.C. has seen more than 190 of its residents die from toxic drugs.

“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release on Aug. 29.

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“We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply.”

The coroners’ service said the 1,455 deaths recorded from January to July is the largest number reported in the first seven months of any year since the province declared a public health emergency over illicit drug overdose deaths.

A total of 12,739 British Columbians have died from illicit drug overdoses in the past seven years, the service said. The data for July indicates the province could exceed the nearly 2,300 total fatalities recorded in 2022.

Although 198 deaths in July represent a 5 percent decrease from the number recorded in the same month of 2022, it is still a 4 percent increase compared to the 191 deaths reported in June of this year.

“The number of unregulated drug deaths in July 2023 equates to about 6.4 deaths per day,” the release said.

While most deaths have occurred in urban centres like Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria, other areas, such as Central Vancouver Island, Northern Interior, Northwest and Greater Nanaimo, have also seen a considerable number of deaths, it added.

Fifty-six percent of deaths this year have occurred in the Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health authorities, but the coroners’ service says Northern Health continues to have the highest per-capita death rate at 59.8 per 100,000 residents.

The data also indicated that the leading cause of death among people aged 10 to 59 is drug overdose, which accounts for “more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined,” the coroner service said.

“In 2023, 69 percent of those dying were aged 30 to 59, and 77 percent were male.”

The Canadian Press contributed to this report.

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