The western section of the Cowichan Valley, which includes the Lake Cowichan area, has seen five deaths due to toxic drugs from January to September of this year.
According to the BC Coroners Service and the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, the Cowichan West Local Health Area is among the local health areas in the province that had, proportional to the population, the most deaths related to toxic drugs in that time period.
The others areas where numbers are proportionally highest are Lillooet, Terrace, Alberni/Clayoquot and Merritt.
Overall, there were 1,644 lives lost to illicit drugs in B.C. in the first nine months of 2022, which is the largest number ever recorded in the first nine months of a calendar year.
Toxic drugs claimed the lives of at least 171 British Columbians in September alone, putting the province on track to surpass 2,000 such deaths for a second consecutive year, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service.
“British Columbians are continuing to suffer the tragic effects of a toxic and volatile drug supply, with almost six members of our communities dying each day,”said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner.
“Both those who use drugs occasionally and those who are substance-dependent are at risk of sudden death from the unpredictable illicit market. Individuals who have been abstinent for a period of time or those who normally use stimulants are at increased risk. Their opioid tolerance is low and the prevalence of fentanyl in the illicit supply is high.”
The 171 deaths in September is roughly the same as the total reported in August (169) and is equivalent to about 5.7 deaths per day.
Consistent with previous reporting, 71 per cent of those who died so far in 2022 were between 30 and 59 years of age, and 79 per cent were male.
The townships reporting the highest total number of illicit drug toxicity deaths so far in 2022 are Vancouver, Surrey and Greater Victoria.
Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in British Columbia and is second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost.
At least 10,505 British Columbians have been lost to illicit drugs since the public-health emergency into substance-related harms was first declared in April 2016.
“I am encouraged by the many recommendations made by the Select Standing Committee on Health last week that echo those of the recent coroners service death-review panel,” said Lapointe.
“Both reports emphasize the need for a statutory framework that encompasses all treatment and recovery services in British Columbia, along with appropriate regulations, standards, protocols, evaluation and public reporting regarding the measures being taken to address this crisis.”