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Coquitlam illicit drug deaths up 60% in April, Tri-Cities total reaches 18

Coquitlam is on pace to match its record toxic overdose death toll of 32 set last year, according to the BC Coroner Service.
Illicit drugs. | Dan Toulgoet, Glacier Media

Three more lives were lost to illicit drug overdoses in Coquitlam in April.

The city has now recorded eight deaths to unregulated drugs in 2023 to date, according to the latest numbers available from the BC Coroners Service.

That marks an increase of 60 per cent after five residents died between January and March.

And that puts Coquitlam on pace to match the 32 deaths from 2022, which was a record year for the community in the last decade.

The new deaths are also three of 206 people that succumbed to overdoses by toxic drugs across B.C. last month. The provincial total for the year is 814.

"It's critical that we rely on science, reliable data and legitimate reporting as we respond to an emergency that has taken the lives of so many of our family members, friends and neighbours," said Lisa Lapointe, B.C.'s chief coroner, in a news release today (May 18). 

"We mustn't lose sight of the fact that the root of this crisis was the arrival of illicit fentanyl in B.C. in 2013, and that it has been driven by illicit fentanyl ever since. Safer-supply prescribing and the decriminalization of small amounts of some drugs for personal use are recent health-centred approaches to a complex health challenge. Anonymous allegations and second-hand anecdotes suggesting that these new initiatives are somehow responsible for the crisis our province has been experiencing since early 2016 are not only harmful, they are simply wrong."

There were 18 illicit drug overdose deaths in the Tri-Cities between January and April 2023.

That's one-third of the 55 fatalities across the Fraser North health service delivery area, which includes Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Lapointe said fentanyl continues to be the driving factor in the death toll, explaining the toxic drug continues to eight of every 10 deaths and is "almost always" combined with other substances.

Of the provincial total, the BC Coroners Service said 77 per cent were men and 70 per cent were between age 30 and 59.

More than 12,000 people have died from toxic drugs in B.C. since the public health emergency was declared in April 2016.