More than 200 people in Thompson-Okanagan have died from toxic drugs | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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More than 200 people in Thompson-Okanagan have died from toxic drugs

FILE PHOTO - A Penticton man holds a pipe used to smoke drugs.

The four big cities in the Thompson-Okanagan region make up 10% of BC’s overdose deaths from toxic drugs with a total of 204 dying in the region so far this year.

There have been 2,039 deaths from toxic drugs in BC so far in 2023. It is the third year in a row that drugs have killed more than 2,000 people in B.C. The province released its latest data on the toxic drug crisis for 2023 in a press release today, Nov. 30.

Kelowna had 81 overdose deaths, Penticton had 17 overdose deaths, Vernon had 39, and Kamloops 67 people died in the ten months of 2023.

Those numbers are slightly down from 2022 when Kelowna had 85 overdose deaths, Penticton had 30, Vernon had 43 and Kamloops had 92. 

“We hold close the memory of those we have lost as we continue to build and improve the systems of support in our province. Our goal is clear: to give the care and support needed to stop these losses from happening again and to help our communities heal. We will continue to make real changes that will help save lives and connect people to the care they need," Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jennifer Whiteside said in the release.

READ MORE: LESS FEAR: Decriminalization of illicit drugs in Interior Health helps users get help

“Unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in British Columbia for people aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined,” the press release read.

This year’s data is consistent with trends seen in previous years. 

The cities with the most toxic drug-related deaths were in Vancouver, Surrey, and Greater Victoria.

More than three-quarters of those who die from an overdose are male.

The provincial toxicological reports show the drug supply is still heavily tainted by fentanyl and similar opioids. Eighty-five per cent of expedited tests done show there was fentanyl and its analogues present in the drugs, including the supply of stimulants like cocaine and methamphetamine.

Interior Health advices drug users that “substances being advertised as hydromorphone on the black market actually contain isotonitazine, a drug as dangerously potent as fentanyl. The only way to be certain about the substances contained in a product that is purchased illicitly is through a drug-checking service.”

“More than 13,200 people have died because of poisoned drugs since the crisis was declared in 2016. We recognize the depth of grief these numbers represent, far beyond what any statistics can convey. Nothing will ever replace these people in the hearts of those who love them. Our government continues to work urgently to provide access to effective and compassionate care," Whiteside said.

For information about how to respond to an overdose go here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jesse Tomas or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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