177 people killed by toxic drugs in B.C. in February

The BC Coroners Service says at least 177 people were killed by the toxic drug supply in the province in February — marking an 11 per cent decrease from the same month last year.

The February 2024 figure also represents a decrease of 12 per cent from the number of deaths reported in January of this year. Despite this, the service notes February marked the 20th consecutive month to record at least 175 deaths.

“Rates of death throughout the province remain significantly elevated,” the BC Coroners Service explained Friday.

“The provincewide rate of death for the first two months of 2024 is 40.1 per 100,000 residents, which is below the record numbers reported in 2023 but still nearly twice the rate recorded in 2016, the year the public-health emergency was first declared.”

The Coroners Services says testing continues to show there is a “volatile and inconsistent drug supply throughout B.C.” It notes fentanyl and/or one of its analogues continues to be identified in many of the test results, with these substances found in about eight of every 10 tests this year so far. Fentanyl and its analogues have often been found in samples of cocaine, methamphetamine, and other substances.

“Nearly every unregulated drug death is the result of mixed drug toxicity,” the agency added.

The coroner says unregulated drug toxicity continues to be the leading cause of death in B.C. in people aged 10 to 59.

At least 14,208 British Columbians have died since the drug crisis was declared a public health emergency in April 2016.