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Spike in toxic drug deaths prompts safety warning from BC Coroners Service

Preliminary data suggests at least 200 people died in November
Protesters stop at the intersection of Powell and Main streets in Vancouver to listen to speeches on April 14, 2023 during an event marking the seventh anniversary of the toxic drug deaths in B.C. (Lauren Collins/Black Press Media)

The BC Coroners Service has issued a public safety warning for people who use drugs, saying it’s seen a recent spike in the number of people dying from the unregulated supply.

The service usually refrains from releasing its monthly toxic drug deaths report in December because of how difficult the holiday season can be for people who have lost loved ones. This December, however, the service said an increase in deaths warranted a warning.

Preliminary data suggests at least 200 British Columbians died from the unregulated toxic drug supply in November, the highest monthly total since July. The BC Coroners Service said those numbers are still under review, but would amount to seven people dying a day.

The increase also means B.C. will almost certainly record an unprecedented number of deaths for 2023. Last year, 2,377 people died. This year, including November’s estimate, 2,239 people have been lost so far.

The BC Coroners Service said drug deaths have spiked in the winter months in past years, and it is concerned the same could be occurring this year. It said it is also concerned about reports coming out of Interior Health of counterfeit hydromorphone tablets.

It urged people not to use drugs alone and to seek out drug checking or overdose prevention sites whenever possible.

READ ALSO: Anger over unresolved toxic drug crisis as B.C. chief coroner exits

About the Author: Jane Skrypnek

Hi, I'm a provincial reporter with Black Press Media, where I've worked since 2020.
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