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Toxic drug deaths rising in Langley

In three months this year, 11 people died locally
B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe provides an update on illicit drug toxicity deaths in the province during a news conference at the legislature in Victoria on Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

So far, 11 people have died in Langley from toxic drug deaths in the first quarter of 2023, a rate that could make this the second-worst year ever for such deaths.

According to data released Tuesday by the B.C. Coroners Service, 596 people died across B.C. in from January to March of this year from toxic street drugs. That is a higher overall rate than over the last several years.

Since the introduction several years ago of powerful opioids, including fentanyl, to the street drug supply, the number of deaths has skyrocketed.

A decade ago, Langley was seeing about 10 toxic drug deaths per year.

In 2016, as provincial deaths almost doubled, the number of deaths in Langley tripled, to 31. In 2019, after multiple intervention efforts, the number of deaths finally felt substantially for the first time, but the pandemic saw the situation worsen further.

Langley saw 37 deaths in 2020, 59 in 2021, and 41 in 2022.

So far this year, 71 per cent of those dying are between 30 and 59 years old, and 77 per cent are male.

Also this year, 47.1 per cent of the deaths have taken place in private residences, 31 per cent in other residences – including hotels, rooming houses, and single-room occupancy dwellings – 15.1 per cent outside, and less than two per cent in public restrooms.

Fentanyl was detected in 86 per cent of all cases of death. THat’s up from 14.7 per cent in 2013.

“Since the emergency was first declared, more than 11,000 people have lost their lives due to the unregulated drug supply,” said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.’s chief coroner. “This is a crisis of incomprehensible scale, and I extend my deepest condolences to everyone who has experienced the loss of someone they loved.”

Unregulated drug toxicity continues to be the leading cause of unnatural death in B.C., killing more people than murder, suicides, car crashes, drownings, and deaths by fire, combined.

Lapointe again urged that safe supply programs be expanded, as well as treatment programs.

“There should not be a dichotomy between access to life-saving safer supply and access to life-saving treatment options,” she said.

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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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