Medicine Hat News

B.C. on track for record-breaking year for illicit overdose deaths: coroner


British Columbia is facing a record-breaking year for overdose deaths and the provincial coroner is urging caution as the illicit drug supply grows more toxic.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said Monday there were 153 suspected toxic drug deaths in November, an 89 per cent increase from the same month last year.

In a statement, she said 1,548 people have died from overdoses so far this year and that number puts every health authority at or near the highest-ever monthly totals.

Toxicology findings show a larger number of those who died between April and November had extreme concentrat­ions of fentanyl, compared with previous months, the statement said.

The coroners service said an average of five people died every day in the province last month, and over the first 11 months of the year, 81 per cent of those who died were males.

Sheila Malcolmson, British Columbia’s minister of mental health and addictions, said the province and the country are facing a double tragedy COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis.

“There isn’t a single family or person in the province who hasn’t been impacted in some way by the two public health emergencie­s,” she said in a statement.

In September, the provincial health officer allowed more health profession­als to prescribe alternativ­e drugs to those who are using toxic street drugs.

The B.C. government says between March and November, the number of people who were given hydromorph­one — an opioid pain reliever and alternativ­e to illicit drugs — increased from 677 to 3,338.

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