Substance Use News- Coroners Service Releases Report on Overdose Deaths

Substance Use News provides a snapshot of news and resources for those working in harm reduction. We share pieces on the social, medical and political responses to the opioid crisis, from advocacy to welcome change. With the added layer of the coronoavirus/COVID-19 public health constraints, those working in harm reduction have heightened concerns about how to provide the safest, most dignified support to people who use drugs. For COVID-19 specific resources, including harm reduction resources, please visit our COVID-19 resources page.  See our Drug Use and Overdose Response page for resources on overdose services, team resilience, governmental reports, policy recommendations, and more. 


BC’s Overdose Numbers Released

On Thursday February 11 2021, the BC Coroners Service released the report, Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in BC January 1, 2010 – December 31, 2020. It “summarizes all unintentional illicit drug toxicity deaths in British Columbia (accidental and undetermined) that occurred between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2020, inclusive. It includes confirmed and suspected illicit toxicity deaths.”


“Each loss is a loss of someone’s loved one a cherished individual.”
 – Harm reduction advocate Guy Felicella


As CBC’s Andrea Ross reports, it was BC’s deadliest year ever for drug overdoses: more people died of drug overdoses last year in BC than car crashes, homicides, suicides and prescription drug-related deaths combined.

The number of deaths in 2020 was up 74% over overdose deaths in 2019. In Thousands Dead of Overdoses in British Columbia. It Didn’t Have to Happen, Paul Willcocks writes, “What’s different about the poisoned drug crisis, which has been far more deadly? Why did the government listen to Henry on COVID-19 and ignore her on overdose deaths? Because our society doesn’t much care about people whose lives are ended by poisoned drugs.”

In Overdoses spike in small town BC as communities struggle for resources to tackle worsening opioid crisis, Briar Stewart looks outside Vancouver, which the general public may assume to be the only place there’s a problem.

Ottawa has committed funds to four new safer drug supply projects – three pilots in Vancouver and one in Victoria – to test models that help people avoid poisoned illicit drugs, and the first nurses are being trained trained to prescribe pharmaceutical alternatives to illicit drugs for substance users in rural BC. “The first cohort of nurses joining physicians, pharmacists and nurse practitioners as points of access for pharmaceutical alternatives to street drugs is only trained to prescribe buprenorphine/naloxone, known as Suboxone, but training for other alternatives like slow-release oral morphine and methadone will come in later phases.”

Harm reduction advocate by Guy Felicella shared this piece by Andrea Woo: Portraits of loss: One hundred lives, felled by an overdose crisis. As Guy says, “Each loss is a loss of someone’s loved one a cherished individual.”



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Focus image by Andrew, Flickr (Creative Commons)