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Nine people in New West died in toxic drug crisis from January to April

BC Coroners Service reporting shows nine people in New Westminster are among the 763 people in BC who died of unregulated toxic drugs in the first four months of 2024.
Illicit unregulated drugs have claimed the lives of more about 763 British Columbians between January and April, including nine people in New West. photo Mikroman6/Moment/Getty Images

The latest data from the BC Coroners Service shows that nine people in New West died of unregulated toxic drugs in the first four months of 2024.

Each month, the coroners service releases a report detailing deaths across B.C. related to unregulated toxic drugs. The data is subject to change as additional toxicology results are received.

May’s report from the coroners service indicated there had been six deaths in New West between January and March 2023. June’s recently released report, which includes statistics from April 2024, shows that three more people had died in New, bringing the total to nine deaths in the first four months of the year.

That’s one fewer death than the 10 that had been recorded in New Westminster in the same timeframe of 2023. Provincially, there were 763 deaths recorded in B.C. in the first four months of 2024 – a decrease from the 814 deaths between January and April 2023.

In April 2024, unregulated toxic drugs claimed the lives of 182 people in British Columbia, according to preliminary data from the BC Coroners Service.

“While this represents a 24 per cent decrease from the number of deaths in April 2023 (239), the risk posed by unregulated drug supply remains very high,” said the report.

April 2024 marked eight years since the public-health emergency was first declared in British Columbia.

“At least 14,582 people in the province have lost their lives to toxic drugs in that time, including 763 in the first four months of 2024,” said the report. “Unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death for people in British Columbia age 10 to 59, and accounts for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined.”

According to the corners service, fentanyl continues to be the primary driver of unregulated toxic-drug deaths in 2024; it was detected in 82 per cent of toxicological test results.

In nearly three-quarters of the deaths in April, substances were consumed through smoking, said the coroners service report.

The coroners office states that about six people die of toxic drugs in British Columbia every day.

A health contact centre, which includes witnessed consumption and drug testing services, opened at 40 Begbie St. in downtown New West in April 2021.

Its opening followed BC Coroners Services reports showing there had been 35 illicit drugs toxicity deaths in New Westminster in 2020, 20 in 2019, 36 in 2018 and 24 in 2017.