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Deadliest February on record in B.C.'s overdose crisis

Last Updated Mar 24, 2021 at 12:54 pm PDT

FILE - Prescription pills are shown in Toronto, Dec. 23, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Summary

Last month, 155 people lost their lives due to illicit drugs

There was a 107 per cent year-over-year increase in February B.C. overdose deaths

Stigma, criminalization, pandemic pushing people to use drugs alone, says minister of mental health and addictions

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – There were more overdose deaths in British Columbia last month than any other February in history.

Last month, 155 people lost their lives due to illicit drugs. That is a 107 per cent increase compared to February, 2020.

This marks the 11th month in a row that overdose deaths in B.C. have topped 100.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson says many drug users are using alone, “and the pandemic is pushing people further into isolation.”

“The illicit drug supply chain is dramatically more toxic and, tragically, more lethal. The effects of two public health emergencies have taken an immense toll,” she added.

Last year was the worst ever for overdoses in B.C., with 1,760 deaths. That was a 74 per cent jump from 2019.

In 2020, illicit fentanyl killed more people in this province than crashes, homicides, suicides, and prescription drug-related deaths combined.

Related article: 2020 worst year ever for B.C. overdose deaths

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe pointed to the pandemic as a major factor in the jump in numbers.

“With the pandemic, access to harm reduction measures was reduced. People self-isolated and the harms associated with the illicit drug market returned with a vengeance,” she said last month.