January 31, 2024

(xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh)/Vancouver, B.C.) – On the heels of Bell’s Let’s Talk Day—a day to promote action regarding mental health—British Columbians were confronted with the reality that 2023 was the worst year for toxic drug deaths in BC history. There were 2,511 toxic drug deaths over the course of 2023—nearly seven deaths every single day. First Nations are disproportionately represented in the number of people dying by toxic drug poisoning.

The relentless pace of toxic drug poisonings has proceeded unabated since BC declared a Public Health Emergency in 2016. More than 14,000 British Columbians have died by toxic drug poisoning since that time. This is equivalent to the entire population of cities like Comox, Terrace or Williams Lake. Toxic drug poisoning is now the leading cause of death among British Columbians between the ages of 10 and 59. Among youth victims of toxic drug deaths, most (73%) had been involved with the child welfare system and 67% were living with mental health challenges.