Canada province sets record with 1,455 drug deaths in 2023

British Columbia declared public health alert in 2016

Barry Ellsworth  | 30.08.2023 - Update : 30.08.2023
Canada province sets record with 1,455 drug deaths in 2023


Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia (B.C.) set a dubious record with 1,455 people dying from drug poisoning in the first seven months of 2023, according to the coroner’s office report released Tuesday.

It is the highest number recorded by the coroner’s office between January and July in any year, despite the numbers resulting in the province declaring a public health emergency in 2016.

“I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia’s toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, in a statement. “We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply.”

At the current rate, 2,383 drug deaths will occur in 2023, claiming 12,739 victims since the emergency declaration.

"The critical risks and losses of life resulting from this public health emergency deserve an urgent response," said Lapointe. "We must not accept the continued loss of six lives each and every day."

The highest number of deaths occurred in urban centers like Vancouver (population 675,218 in 2017), Surrey (pop. 518,467) and Greater Victoria (pop. 397,237) but there is a high proportion of drug deaths per resident in smaller cities, too.

People who use drugs in communities throughout B.C. face an extreme risk of significant injury or death, the coroner’s report stated.

“In just two days, we’ll recognize International Overdose Awareness Day,” Lapointe said. “This most sombre of occasions is an important opportunity to recognize all our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours who have been lost to unregulated drugs.”

Illicit fentanyl – a powerful synthetic opioid analgesic – “continues to drive the crisis”, according to a coroner’s report in July. Lapointe said the province needs to act fast to widen access to a safe drug supply.

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