The B.C. Coroners Service is reporting 158 deaths due to illicit drug toxicity for the month of March, as overdose deaths rose to 498 since the beginning of the year across the province.
It’s the highest three-month total starting from the beginning of a calendar year in over a decade of recorded data, and is a 41 per cent increase from the same month last year.
The East Kootenay health area reported one death in March, for a total of four in the first quarter of the year.
Across Interior Health, the B.C. Coroners Service reported 77 overdose-related deaths in the same time frame.
“Stigma and criminalization are driving people to use alone, and the pandemic is pushing people further into isolation,” said Shelia Malcomson, the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a statement. “The illicit drug supply has become dramatically more toxic and, tragically, more lethal. The effects of two public health emergencies have taken an immense toll. People and communities are hurting, and we will do more to stop this terrible surge of overdose deaths.”