Canada: B.C.’s 2021 death toll due to opioid overdose increased by 26 percent than 2020

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Vancouver (B.C.)/CMEDIA: A 26 percent increase in its opioid crisis death toll in 2021 in the province of British Columbia (B.C.) was reported compared with the previous year’s record, B.C.’s chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said at a news conference on Feb 9.

The death toll of 1,782 in the fall climbed to 2,224 by the end of the year, said Lapointe.
The year 2020’s death toll reportedly had also been record-breaking before being surpassed in 2021.

In response to Lapointe’s announcement on Feb 9, Moms Stop The Harm (MSTH), an organization of Canadian families who have experienced substance-use-related harms and deaths held a rally on Thursday morning outside Member of Legislative Assembly Todd Stone’s office in Kamloops, B.C., demanding safe drug supply, decriminalization of illicit drugs and more treatment resources for people seeking to detox.

A public health emergency was declared in 2016 when overdose due to illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl became the leading cause of unnatural deaths in B.C.
According to last year’s trend, Lapointe noted that there was an increase in the death rate of females and in people aged 50 and older.

The regions that saw the highest number of deaths were Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria, and the health authorities with the highest rates of death were Vancouver Coastal and Northern.

Efforts to save lives have expanded since then, but the pandemic is one factor that those fighting the crisis couldn’t have anticipated.

In a joint statement issued Wednesday, B.C. National Democratic Party (NDP) leader, Sheila Malcolmson and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the way substance use disorders are looked at needs to change.

“We must reduce the fear and shame that leads so many to hide their drug use, avoid services, and use deadly drugs alone. Addiction is not a choice, it’s a health condition,” they wrote.

“From the COVID-19 pandemic, the toxic drug crises, to heat, floods, and fires, we have never asked as much from our healthcare system, front-line healthcare workers, and B.C. families. And yet, we need to do more…and changes can’t happen fast enough, which is why we aren’t stopping until we turn this crisis around, Malcolmson and Henry said.

The data presented Wednesday revealed that both the overdose prevention sites and supervised consumption sites did not report any deaths.