Langley saw eight deaths from overdoses and toxic drugs in the first three months of 2021, according to data released Thursday by the B.C. Coroners Service.
The new numbers show that Langley might be seeing fewer deaths than last year, or in the peak years of the fentanyl epidemic around 2017, but it is still a higher number of deaths than was seen in entire years less than a decade ago.
The community remains among the 15 with the highest numbers of drug toxicity deaths, trailing Richmond and Nanaimo which each saw nine deaths from January to March this year.
Vancouver saw the highest number of deaths, with 112, followed by Surrey with 60.
Among Langley’s other near neighbours, Abbotsford had 21 deaths in the first three months of the year and Maple Ridge had 12.
Last year overall Langley saw 38 drug toxicity deaths, higher than in any year before.
Before the arrival of potent fentanyl and other opioids in the local drug supply, Langley typically saw five to 10 drug deaths in an entire year. That was the trend as recently as 2015.
Province-wide, almost 500 people have lost their lives to drugs this year from January to March, with 498 deaths across B.C.
“Once again, we are reminded of the incredible toll that the toxic drug emergency is having on communities throughout our province,” said Chief Coroner of B.C. Lisa Lapointe.
Last year, 1,723 British Columbians died of toxic drugs.
Tests have shown that the drug supply has been “volatile” in terms of variability and toxicity, Lapointe, said, with powerful drug carfentanil found in 18 deaths in March alone.
Benzodiazapines, a prescription drug, were found in 15 per cent of drug samples tested in 2020, but this year in February they were found in 51 per cent of samples.
“There are no simple solutions to the toxic drug crisis this province is experiencing,” Lapointe said.
She mentioned supervised consumption and drug-testing strategies are part of evidence-based approaches to reducing the death toll.
Both Langley City and Township have been approached by Fraser Health about the possibility of creating a supervised consumption site somewhere in the community.
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