The BC Coroners Service is issuing an urgent warning to users of illicit drugs, especially in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, to take extra care.
The warning comes in light of an unprecedented number of fatalities involving illicit drugs yesterday.
At least six persons died after using drugs in the Downtown Eastside in a span of only about eight hours. Another two deaths in the same area in the same timeframe are suspected of potentially being drug-related.
Another five persons died yesterday after drug use throughout the rest of the province – one elsewhere in Vancouver, one in Burnaby, two in the Fraser Region and one in northern B.C.
“We are not sure what has caused this very distressing spike in fatalities,” said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe. “It will take detailed toxicology testing and further investigation to try to determine that.”
In the meantime, it is more important than ever that those who find they must use illicit drugs do so at a site where naloxone and medical help are readily available. Although new overdose prevention sites and a mobile medical unit are being established in the Downtown Eastside, along with Insite, none of those who died were utilizing any of those facilities.
The BC Coroners Service continues to work with the provincial government’s Joint Task Force on Overdose Response and with health, community and law enforcement agencies in an effort to reduce the death toll.
A summary of drug death fatalities up to the end of November will be made public by the BC Coroners Service on Monday, Dec. 19.