Maple Ridge is trending toward the worst year ever for overdose deaths, after a deadly month of May in B.C.
The BC Coroners Service has released its most recent data for illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province, and it shows there have already been 19 deaths for the first five months of the year in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, compared with 37 deaths for all of 2020 – the deadliest year the city has seen.
There were six overdose deaths in the Maple Ridge area in May.
BC Coroners Service reporting released on Tuesday shows at least 160 lives were lost in the province as a result of suspected illicit drug toxicity in May. An average of 5.2 lives were lost to illicit drugs every day in the month. The 160 deaths are the second-most ever recorded in the month after May 2020 (177 deaths).
It was the 15th consecutive month B.C. has experienced more than 100 deaths due to drug toxicity.
The 851 lives lost between January and May are the most ever reported in the first five months of a calendar year, surpassing the 704 deaths reported in January-May 2017 by almost 21 per cent.
“More than five years into this public health emergency, we continue to lose our loved ones, friends and neighbours at an almost unimaginable rate,” said Lisa Lapointe, chief coroner, BC Coroners Service. “There is no way to measure the catastrophic impact that the loss of these lives have had on every community in our province. Today, I grieve with all those who have lost someone close to them as a result of this crisis.”
Fentanyl and carfentanil remain the reason for the deadly drug supply, as 27 per cent of the samples tested in April and 25 per cent of samples tested in May contained extreme concentrations (more than 50 micrograms per litre) of fentanyl. These are the highest rates reported since at least the beginning of 2019.
Carfentanil, a more potent analogue of fentanyl, is being seen more often. It has now been detected in 75 deaths in 2021 after being identified in 65 investigations in all of 2020. Additionally, 60 per cent of returned tests in May were positive for benzodiazepines, which create significant life-saving challenges for first responders when used in combination with opioids.
“As the COVID-19 pandemic begins to wind down, we must turn our attention to combating B.C.’s other public health emergency with the same sense of urgency,” Lapointe said. “We need to ensure that safe alternatives to toxic illicit drugs are available throughout the province, and that we are taking meaningful steps to reduce stigma and offer substance users access to the supports they need and are seeking.”
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