The surge in illicit drug deaths in BC continued in July with 175 fatal overdoses reported.

BC’s Coroner says July was the third consecutive month in which there were more than 170 suspected overdose deaths.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says, “the number of people dying in BC due to an unsafe drug supply continues to surpass deaths due to homicides, motor vehicle accidents, suicides and COVID-19 combined.”

Lapointe says this health emergency is taking a “tragic toll” on people from all walks of life.

The chief coroner says, “the extreme concentration of the illicit fentanyl being trafficked is resulting in deaths within moments of use.”

She says access to key harm reduction services during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge.

Lapointe says two or three people using together may die suddenly with no opportunity to seek help.

According to the chief coroner, “Given the high prevalence of fentanyl detected in all fatal overdoses, if you are using illicit substances – whether it be fentanyl, heroin, cocaine or methamphetamines – it is critical that you use only in the presence of someone willing and able to inject naloxone and call for emergency assistance.”

Lapointe says the risk of using illegal drugs is extreme and clinicians are encouraged to support people at risk by prescribing safe supply.

She also advocates for “an accessible, evidence-based and accountable treatment and recovery system for anyone experiencing problematic substance use who is seeking this medical assistance.”

The 175 overdose deaths from illegal drugs in July are 136-percent higher than July of last year.