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Rising death toll: More lives lost in New West to toxic drugs

B.C.’s toxic drug crisis: Four more deaths reported in New Westminster
People in New Westminster continue to lose their lives to unregulated drugs.

Four more people in New Westminster have lost their lives to toxic drugs.

The latest report from the BC Coroners Service show that at least 198 people died of toxic drugs in July. That’s the 13th consecutive month that more than 190 British Columbians have lost their lives to the toxic, unregulated drug supply, according to preliminary data released by the BC Coroners Service.

"I am saddened to once again report that British Columbia's toxic drug crisis shows no signs of abating," chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a news release. "We are continuing to experience record numbers of deaths provincewide because of the toxic drug supply. The unregulated illicit market is highly unpredictable and continues to put thousands of lives at risk each month. Despite recommendations for the urgent expansion of a safer drug supply, very few have access to a stable, lower-risk alternative."

Between January and July 2023, at least 1,455 deaths were attributed to toxic drugs, the largest number ever reported by the BC Coroners Service in the first seven months of a calendar year.

The coroners service’s Aug. 29 report shows that 20 people in New Westminster are suspected to have died of toxic drugs between January and July 31. That’s four more than had been reported between January and June.

According to the BC Coroners Service, unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in British Columbia for persons aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined.

"In just two days, we'll recognize International Overdose Awareness Day," Lapointe said. "This most sombre of occasions is an important opportunity to recognize all our family members, friends, colleagues and neighbours who have been lost to unregulated drugs. While we honour their memory and grieve alongside their loved ones, we must urge decision-makers to do more to stop these preventable deaths from occurring. The critical risks and losses of life resulting from this public health emergency deserve an urgent response. We must not accept the continued loss of six lives each and every day."

In support of International Overdose Awareness Day, the Lower Mainland Purpose Society for Youth and Families is inviting community members to attend a free naloxone training event on Thursday, Aug. 31. The hope is to train hundreds of people on the use of naloxone – and perhaps set a world record.

According to the BC Coroners Service, at least 12,739 British Columbians have lost their lives to unregulated drugs since the public health emergency was first declared in April 2016.