British Columbia has nearly matched its record for monthly fatal overdoses related to illicit drugs, with 175 deaths during the month of July.
The BC Coroners Service saw 177 fatalities in June, which surpassed the previous high of 171 deaths in May. The service initially reported 175 deaths in the month of June, but later updated the number.
A statement Tuesday said the service has detected “a sustained increase” of illicit drug toxicity deaths since the first peak of the pandemic in March, and is now confirming five straight months with more than 100 such deaths.
“What the latest numbers show us is that the overdose crisis has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the unprecedented tragedy of death and loss to families in our province continues,” Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wrote in the statement.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says the pandemic has restricted access to critical harm-reduction services. Still, she urged people to go to supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites to check substances for toxicity and not to use alone.
Just under 80 per cent of people who died of an overdose in B.C. this year were men. Eighty-five per cent of the deaths happened indoors. No deaths have been reported at supervised consumption or drug overdose prevention sites.
Opioids were found among those who died, along with cocaine and the stimulants methamphetamine and amphetamine. Fentanyl remains the most significant driver in the high number of deaths.
About 5,000 people in British Columbia have died of illicit-drug overdoses since.
Last month, Premier John Horgan called for a national plan to help stem the overdose crisis as he backed the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in calling for the possession of small amounts of illegal drugs to be decriminalized.