“Last month, 170 people lost their lives to a more toxic and poisonous supply of illicit drugs than ever before. It’s really devastating for all of us,” Darcy, the province’s minister of mental health and addictions, said in a press release. “The impact of this enormous loss is felt in communities and families across our province and in a profoundly profound way. Each person was a light for people in their world and now that the light has tragically gone out. We mourn with every family of those we have lost to this terrible crisis.
According to a provincial government press release, there have been more than 550 illicit drug-related deaths in British Columbia in 2020.
“In 2020, 85% of deaths related to the toxicity of illicit drugs occurred indoors and 13% occurred outdoors,” the statement said. “No deaths have been reported at sites preventing supervised use or drug overdoses.”
Provincial statistics show that 70% of those who died in 2020 were between the ages of 19 and 49, with men accounting for 80% of deaths so far this year.
“Today, I appeal to all who read this message. If you use illicit drugs, these drugs are incredibly toxic and even more poisonous than before. I ask each of you to have a plan. Do a good job of not using poisoned drugs alone,” said Darcy, the province’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “Tile the Lifeguard app – it will signal help if you need it. Continue to visit OPS and supervised consumer services. They are open and essential services in British Columbia.
According to the province, the 170 deaths related to the toxicity of illicit drugs represent a 93% increase over the number of deaths in May 2019 (88) and 44% from the number of deaths in April 2020 (118). In April and May 2020, about 19% of cases had extreme levels of fentanyl (above 50 ug/L) compared to 9% between January 2019 and March 2020.
“I am deeply grateful to every person who puts their blood, sweat and tears to help and care for those at risk of overdose,” Darcy said. “It’s been a long and painful road. I know how unbearable these losses are for you and I am immensely grateful for your heroic efforts in very difficult circumstances.
While there is much to be done before COVID-19, Darcy said the province is moving in the right direction and the overdose mortality rate is decreasing in British Columbia. She said increased distribution of naloxone and increased access to overdose prevention services and treatments showed that British Columbia had prevented more than 6,000 deaths since the crisis began.
“We continue to redouble our efforts, but we need all British Columbians to join us to protect our loved ones at risk of overdose,” she said. “When it comes to VOCIDE-19, we’ve seen what a difference each of us has made, coming together to do our part. Today, more than ever, as we face two unprecedented public health emergencies, we must harness our collective efforts, compassion and determination so that families do not have to continue to suffer unimaginable and preventable losses.
In April 2016, the province declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act in response to an increase in opioid-related deaths in British Columbia.
“let’s talk about how to stay safe. Let’s take care of each other. Let’s take care of each other,” Darcy said in a statement released June 11. Let’s come together as a province to save lives from an overdose.