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Illicit drug deaths rising in Kootenay-Boundary

The number of deaths in the Kootenay Boundary attributed to toxic drugs jumped from eight in 2015 to a high of 57 in 2021 before falling slightly in 2022, according to data published by the research arm of Selkirk College.

Selkirk Innovates also compared drug toxicity deaths across the region in 2022 as a rate per 100,000 people, resulting in the table below, that showed Kettle Valley, Castlegar, and Grand Forks had toxic drug death rates higher than the provincial average of 42.7.

However, they cautioned that a small number of deaths in areas with small populations can be challenging to interpret. Nelson and Cranbrook had the highest number of actual deaths at 11 each.

Deaths from illicit toxic drugs are on the rise across the province. A recent report by the BC Coroners Service indicates 2,272 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths in BC in 2022, which works out to approximately 6.2 deaths per day.

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According to the coroners service, illicit drugs are the leading cause of unnatural death. in BC. In 2022, 79 per cent of those who died were male and 70 per cent were between ages 30 and 59. Fentanyl and its analogues was the most common drug involved, followed by cocaine.

Researcher Jayme Jones said the data shows the impact illicit drug use is having in the region and the province and can help inform decision-makers.

The BC government recently decriminalized small amounts of some illicit drugs, saying it will help reduce barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving services.

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