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Terrace records second-highest drug overdose rate in B.C., amid continuing provincial crisis

Terrace had a rate second only to Vancouver, BC Coroners Service data shows
Discarded needles and garbage scatter the ground in this photo, reflecting the harsh reality of the drug crisis currently unfolding amid a province-wide surge in British Columbia. (Jonathan Gonzalez/Unsplash)

Drug overdose deaths in Terrace have spiked, recording the second-highest rate in British Columbia for the month of June, according to data released July 19 by the BC Coroners Service. Terrace’s overdose deaths have been rising exponentially since 2016.

In 2023 so far, Terrace reported 157.9 drug overdose deaths per 100,000 people. While Vancouver - Centre North still holds the highest rate with 587.7 deaths per 100,000 people, Terrace has earned the second-highest rate in terms of local health areas.

This is a notable increase from 114.9 deaths per 100,000 people in 2022 and 75.9 per 100,000 in 2021. The rise follows B.C.’s move to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs in January.

B.C. Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe stated that the fentanyl-driven drug market is resulting in an increasing number of deaths across the province.

“This health emergency is not confined to one neighbourhood or one demographic,” Lapointe warned. “Anyone accessing an illicit substance is at risk of serious harm or death.”

READ MORE: Drug overdose ambulance calls soar in Terrace

Most of these drug-related fatalities, over 80 per cent, occurred indoors, often in private residences. Smoking remains the primary method of drug consumption.

For individuals aged between 10 and 59 in B.C., drug overdose deaths now exceed accidents, suicides and natural diseases to be the leading cause of death. Since B.C. declared a public health emergency in April 2016, over 12,500 lives in the province have been lost to drug overdoses. Lapointe underscored the urgent need for a safer drug supply to reduce harm from the illicit drug market and prevent future deaths.

In June alone, an average of six people died from a drug overdose each day across the province. The majority of these deaths were men aged 30 to 59.

The cities recording the highest numbers of drug-related deaths in 2023 were Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria. Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health authorities reported the highest numbers of these deaths, while Northern Health and Vancouver Coastal Health regions had the highest death rates in the province.

Viktor Elias joined the Terrace Standard in April 2023.

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