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YEAR IN REVIEW: Bad year for toxic drugs in Langley

Deaths on track for one of worst years in last decade
British Columbia chief coroner Lisa Lapointe speaks during a press conference at B.C. Legislature in Victoria on February 24, 2020. Lapointe says she’s frustrated, disappointed even angry at the response to the ongoing overdose crisis in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The poisoned street drug supply continued to claim lives around B.C., including in Langley, where more than three dozen people had died before winter set in.

The most recent data, from January to the end of October, showed there had been 36 deaths in Langley to that point in 2023.

With two months left to run, that was putting Langley on track to have one of the worst years for unregulated drug deaths in its history. In 2021, there were 58 deaths in Langley, and in 2022, there were 44.

The toxic street drug supply is composed of a wide variety of substances, with users not knowing what they’re getting or how strong it is at any given time.

According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service, fentanyl, a powerful opioid, remained the primary drug related to deaths in B.C. – more than 85 per cent of all drug deaths in 2022 involved fentanyl, a rate that has held roughly steady since 2017.

However, about 45 per cent of street drug deaths also involved methamphetamine, almost 40 per cent involved cocaine, and nearly 30 per cent involved benzodiazepines, which are controlled prescription drugs. Alcohol was present in more than 20 per cent of cases.

At the end of the year, B.C.’s Chief Coroner Lisa LaPointe announced her retirement in Feburary. She left office upset that there had not been an overarching plan to deal with the provincial emergency.

“We see these ad hoc announcements but sadly what we haven’t seen is a thoughtful, evidence-based, data-driven plan for how we are going to reduce the number of deaths in our province,” said Lapointe in December.

Meanwhile, the deaths of homeless people province-wide doubled in 2023, a spike largely blamed on the toxic street drug supply.

The deaths continued despite various government programs, including the controversial move in January to decriminalize possession of small amounts of street drugs. The move was heavily criticized by opposition parties in B.C.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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