Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, has released the following statement for International Overdose Awareness Day, and recognizing the BC Coroners Service’s report on illicit drug toxicity deaths:

“On International Overdose Awareness Day, and every day, we remember loved ones lost to this terrible poisoned drug crisis and send strength to the many people grieving. People in B.C. have been caught at the intersection of two public health emergencies: the COVID-19 pandemic and the drug poisoning crisis.

“To commemorate International Overdose Awareness Day and in memory of those we have lost, purple lights will glow at the Parliament Buildings in Victoria – an initiative led by Mom’s Stop The Harm, as part of their annual purple ribbon campaign. As well, BC Place and the Vancouver Convention Centre will glow purple to further commemorate this important day.

“I’m blown away by the heroic work of people on the frontlines of the drug poisoning crisis, saving lives under incredibly difficult conditions. Yet tragically, we're still losing lives. For people who use drugs, or who care about someone who does, it’s vital to stay safer in this public health emergency.   

“The release of today’s report from the BC Coroner’s Service shows just how devastating it’s been for our communities: over six months we have lost another 1,011 lives to the poisoned drug supply. First Nations communities have been disproportionately impacted, and First Nations people are dying at 5.3 times the rate of other B.C. residents. I strongly feel the collective sorrow for everyone who is missing someone.

“Poisoned drugs are circulating. As people are returning to school, family and friends are gathering more often, so it is vitally important to use safer drug practices. Whether you use frequently or infrequently, there is high risk of drug toxicity poisoning and death. Stay safer and call 911 for help, buddy up, start with a small amount and go slow, get your drugs checked, carry naloxone and download the Lifeguard app. More people are dying from inhaling illicit drugs than injecting, so please be careful. Visit stopoverdose.gov.bc.ca for ways to stay safer. For drug checking locations, visit drugcheckingbc.ca.

“We are working hard to separate people from the poisoned drug supply and build more treatment beds and recovery options. Our government has been creating new drug policy in Canada that will save lives by supporting access to prescribed safer supply and connecting people to health-care services, and by moving forward on decriminalization of people who use drugs. We will do everything we can to turn this drug poisoning crisis around.”

A backgrounder follows.