Wednesday March 9, 2022 | VICTORIA, BC
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
It’s an ongoing health emergency, far too longstanding in BC by anyone’s account. People in BC — almost 80 percent of them young men, are dying from drug use (as revealed last fall).
Today the BC Coroner said that of the 6,007 deaths from illicit drug toxicity over a four-year period (Aug. 1, 2017 to July 31, 2021) revealed an increasingly toxic and unpredictable illicit drug supply.
Also it was determined that the current drug policy framework of prohibition is forcing substance users to access the unregulated market, leading to increased numbers of substance-related emergencies and deaths.
The report BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths (PDF) was released at 9 am this morning, and BC Coroner Lisa Lapointe will address media at 11 am.
Scope of the report:
The report offers much data as to the use of drugs, and points out a lack of (or imbalance of delivery area for) current supports such as safe injection sites.
The report does not present evidence of exploring the root causes of people turning to drugs in the first place.
Coroner calls for safer supply:
A panel of subject-matter experts convened by the BC Coroners Service is calling for increased access to a safer supply of drugs and creation of an evidence-based continuum of care to better support substance users and reduce the number of illicit drug-related deaths in BC.
The recommendations are included in a report examining the circumstances around 6,007 deaths from illicit drug toxicity between Aug. 1, 2017 and July 31, 2021.
The report BC Coroners Service Death Review Panel: A Review of Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths reveals that the primary cause of these deaths was the increasingly toxic and unpredictable illicit drug supply in the province, and that the current drug policy framework of prohibition is forcing substance users to access the unregulated market, leading to increased numbers of substance-related emergencies and deaths.
Leading cause of unnatural death:
Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, motor vehicle incidents, drownings and fire-related deaths combined.
The report includes what it calls “realistic, actionable recommendation”s that the panel believes will reduce the number of people dying due to toxic, illicit drugs in our province, according to said Michael Egilson, death review panel chair. ͞
“We recognize that many of the timelines in the report are aggressive, but COVID-19 has demonstrated how swiftly policy-makers can act when lives are at stake ʹand we know that every month of inaction equates to hundreds more lives lost,” said Egilson in today’s BC Coroners news release.
The panel͛’s advice to the chief coroner included three recommendations:
- Ensure a safer drug supply to those at risk of dying from the toxic illicit drug supply.
- Develop a 30/60/90-day Illicit Drug Toxicity Action Plan with ongoing monitoring.
- Establish an evidence-based continuum of care.
The chief coroner has forwarded each of the panel͛’s recommendations to the relevant ministries and organizations.
Members of the panel were appointed by the chief coroner under Section 49 of the Coroners Act and included professionals with expertise in public health, health services, substance use and addiction, medicine, mental health, Indigenous health, education, income assistance, oversight and regulation, and policing.
Regardless of their employment or other affiliations, individual panel members were asked to exercise their mandate under the Coroners Act and express their personal knowledge and professional expertise.
Death Review Panel Reports and Information (government website)