Overdose & Toxic Drug Poisonings

In April 2016, a significant increase in illicit drug-related emergency events and deaths in British Columbia prompted the B.C. Provincial Health Officer to declare a public health emergency. Since that time, deaths due to illicit drug toxicity have continued to increase in B.C., with an average of six illicit drug toxicity deaths per day in 2021. This is more than double the number of deaths since the public health emergency was declared.

Illicit drug toxicity is the leading cause of unnatural death in the province, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, motor vehicle incidents, drownings and fire-related deaths combined. Deaths due to illicit drug toxicity are second only to cancers in terms of potential years of life lost in B.C. Many of these deaths were preventable.

The primary cause of increased deaths is the growing toxicity and unpredictability of the street supply of drugs.

People can experience an overdose or toxic drug poisoning by using opioids, stimulants, alcohol, or a combination of these substances.

Find out more at Toward the Heart.

Video: I Lost My Son To An Overdose

Overdose Prevention Sites

Overdose prevention sites are safe spaces where teams of trained staff monitor people who use illicit drugs while they use to help prevent and recover from overdoses.

Find an overdose prevention site near you by clicking on Toward the Heart's sitefinder below.

BC Centre on Substance Use

400-1045 Howe St, Vancouver, BC V6Z 2A9

E: [email protected] | T: (778) 945-7616 | F: (604) 428-5183

24/7 Addiction Clinician Support Line: (778) 945-7619

Online Addiction Medicine Diploma: [email protected].

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