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Unregulated Drug Deaths Once Again On The Rise

In recent years, we have been grappling with an unprecedented and tragic surge in unregulated drug-related deaths, unveiling a crisis that has cast a grim shadow over communities across the province, including in Vernon.

The latest numbers are out, and they are not good. In 2023, there were 2,511 suspected unregulated drug deaths. According to the BC Coroners Services, this is the highest number of deaths ever recorded in a year, a 5% higher number of deaths in 2022 (2,383).

Opioid deaths in BC and Vernon

(Source: BC Coroners Service)

To say¬†we have a problem is an understatement; unregulated drug use is out of control,¬†and it’s resulting in a very high number of deaths.

Vernon is not isolated from this problem either. In 2023 we saw an increase in deaths to 51 unregulated drug deaths, an increase of 7 people since 2022 (44). Kelowna has also seen a significant increase, from 84 in 2022 to 101 deaths in 2023.

At the Upper Room Mission, we also have seen an increase in deaths within our community. We have had a memorial service almost every week since the new year.

It is important to note that 75.5% of deaths happen in a home, private residence 47.1% and other residence 28.4%. 18.8% of the deaths occurred outside. Often, unregulated deaths are directly related to people struggling with homelessness because their drug use is more visible and out in the open, but this simply is not the case. Unregulated drug deaths happen throughout our community, among people living in a home and people who are homeless. 

The stark reality of unregulated drug deaths reveals the urgency of addressing the complexities surrounding substance use and the challenges posed by an increasingly hazardous drug landscape. These statistics continue to show we have to do more to help people struggling with substance use and the related issues of mental health, poverty and isolation, as well as revisit our laws, enforcement and governmental approaches to the drug problem. The system is simply broken and people are dying at an alarming rate.

What do you think about these numbers? Do you have solution(s)? 

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