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192 British Columbians lost to toxic drugs in March 2024

Province of British Columbia
By Province of British Columbia
May 7th, 2024

Data released by the BC Coroners Service shows toxic drugs claimed the lives of at least 192 people in March, and at least 572 lives in the first three months of 2024.

The data reflects an 11% decrease in the number of lives lost when compared with March 2023 (215), when 6.9 people died each day from toxic drugs. In March 2024, 6.2 deaths per day were tied to the unregulated drug supply.

So far this year, about seven in every 10 of those who have died from toxic drugs were between the ages of 30 and 59. While nearly three-quarters of those killed have been males, it is worth noting that the rate of death among females is climbing year over year: 23 deaths per 100,000 in 2024, compared with 20.6 deaths per 100,000 females for all of 2023.

For British Columbians between 10 and 59, unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined. Since the public-health emergency was first declared in April 2016, at least 14,400 people in the province have lost their lives to toxic drugs.

Additional findings from the latest report include:

  • Vancouver, Surrey and Nanaimo continue to experience the highest number of unregulated drug deaths in 2024;
  • by health authority, the highest number of lives lost to toxic drugs has been in Fraser and Vancouver Coastal health authorities (147 and 143 respectively), making up 51% of all such deaths in 2024;
  • in 2024, 84% of unregulated drug deaths in 2024 have occurred inside (47% in private homes and 37% inside social and supportive housing, single-room occupancy buildings (known as SROs), shelters, hostels and other indoor locations) and 15% were reported to be outside in vehicles, sidewalks, streets or parks; and
  • fentanyl has been detected in 85% of unregulated drug deaths that have undergone expedited toxicology testing.

Please note the data is subject to change as additional toxicology results are received.

Learn More:

The full unregulated drug death report can be viewed here (data to March 31, 2024):
https://app.powerbi.com/view?r=eyJrIjoiY2NhOWZhNzMtZTFlNC00NTI2LTkwNTgtNzdmYjNjMTViMTQzIiwidCI6IjZmZGI1MjAwLTNkMGQtNGE4YS1iMDM2LWQzNjg1ZTM1OWFkYyJ9)

Youth Unregulated Drug Toxicity Deaths, 2017-22:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/statistical/youth_drug_toxicity_deaths_2017-2022.pdf

BC Centre for Disease Control Knowledge Update: Opioid Use Disorder Among Youth in BC:
http://www.bccdc.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/Statistics%20and%20Research/Statistics%20and%20Reports/Overdose/2023.06.06_OUD_youth_infographic.pdf

BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: An Urgent Response to a Continuing Crisis:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/death-review-panel/an_urgent_response_to_a_continuing_crisis_report.pdf

BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/death-review-panel/review_of_illicit_drug_toxicity_deaths_2022.pdf

Mode of Consumption Data – Knowledge Update:
https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/birth-adoption-death-marriage-and-divorce/deaths/coroners-service/statistical/bccs_illicit_drug_mode_of_consumption_2016-2021.pdf

BCCDC Knowledge Update on hydromorphone and illicit drug toxicity deaths:
http://www.bccdc.ca/resource-gallery/Documents/Statistics%20and%20Research/Statistics%20and%20Reports/Overdose/2021.09.15_Knowledge%20Update_Hydromorphone%20and%20drug%20toxicity%20deaths.pdf

Toward the Heart: https://www.towardtheheart.com

Stop Overdose BC: https://www.stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca

BC Centre on Substance Use: https://www.bccsu.ca

Lifeguard app:
https://www.phsa.ca/about/news-stories/news-releases/2020-news/new-lifeguard-app-launched-to-help-prevent-overdoses

BC Centre for Disease Control factsheet on etizolam:
https://towardtheheart.com/assets/uploads/1609802595WXFJCmRP6tu1qI04J8t6BzV

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