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206 people died in B.C. in April of toxic drug poisonings

Paramedics in Vancouver debrief after responding to a drug overdose. JONATHAN HAYWARD, THE CANADIAN PRESS

A total 206 people died in B.C. last month as a result of toxic drug poisonings.

The number represents a four per cent increase over the 199 deaths in March, but is down from January, when 224 people died.

In Greater Victoria, 49 people have died this year, making it the region with the third-highest number of deaths, following Vancouver and Surrey.

Fentanyl is present in about eight of every 10 of the deaths, and almost always in combination with other substances, such as cocaine, methamphetamines and benzodiazapines, chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.

“This drug poisoning­ ­crisis is the direct result of an ­unregulated drug market. ­Members of our communities are dying because non-prescribed, non-pharmaceutical fentanyl is poisoning them on an unprecedented scale,” Lapointe said.

Island Health, Vancouver Coastal Health and Northern Health have reported record high rates of death in the first quarter of 2023.

Lapointe countered “anonymous allegations” suggesting that the decriminalization of small amounts of drugs and safer supply of pharmaceutical-grade drugs are responsible for deaths, saying they “are not only harmful, they are simply wrong.”

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