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B.C. toxic drug-related deaths hit record for first five months of 2021

Last Updated Jun 29, 2021 at 12:46 pm PDT

FILE - A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face shield, an N95 mask and gloves communicates with a colleague moving a patient from an ambulance to the emergency department at Royal Columbian Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on April 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Summary

Drug-related deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate in B.C.

The Coroners Service says another 160 people died because of illicit drugs in May

The total number of deaths from illicit drugs from January to May is 851

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Toxic drug-related deaths continue to rise at an alarming rate in B.C., with the province reporting 160 people died from an overdose in May.

The total number of deaths from illicit drugs from January to May is 851 — the most ever reported in the first five months of a calendar year.

According to the BC Coroners Service, this surpasses the 704 deaths reported at the same time last year by 21 per cent.

The chief coroner says more than five years into this public health emergency, “we continue to lose loved ones, friends and neighbours at an almost unimaginable rate.”

“There is no way to measure the catastrophic impact that the loss of these lives have had on every community in our province. Today, I grieve with all those who have lost someone close to them as a result of this crisis,” said Lisa Lapointe.

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The 160 total is the second-most ever recorded in the month of May. The same month last year saw 177 deaths.

The coroner says 25 per cent of the toxicology samples tested in May contained “extreme concentrations” of fentanyl, at more than 50 micrograms per litre. That is reportedly the highest rate since at least early 2019.

The overdose crisis claimed 176 lives in April. That figure represents a 43 per cent increase over the number of deaths reported in the same month last year.

May 2021 marks the 15th consecutive month that more than 100 people died of suspected overdose.