Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Drug overdoses claimed 55 lives in Prince George last year

Province, Northern Health region saw record numbers of overdose deaths in 2021
Naloxone kit
A Naloxone kit used to treat drug overdoses is seen in a file photo.

Illicit drug overdoses killed 55 people in Prince George in 2021, according to data released by the BC Coroners Service on Wednesday.

 Last year had the second-highest number of overdose deaths in the city, just four less than in 2020. It was the deadliest year for overdoses on record in British Columbia, with 2,224 deaths across the province.

"Over the past seven years, our province has experienced a devastating loss of life due to a toxic illicit drug supply," B.C. chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement issued on Wednesday. "This public health emergency has impacted families and communities across the province and shows no sign of abating. In 2021 alone, more than 2,200 families experienced the devastating loss of a loved one. In the past seven years, the rate of death due to illicit drug toxicity in our province has risen more than 400 (per cent). Drug toxicity is now second only to cancers in B.C. for potential years of life lost. We cannot simply hope that things will improve. It is long past time to end the chaos and devastation in our communities resulting from the flourishing illicit drug market, and to ensure, on an urgent basis, access across the province to a safe, reliable regulated drug supply."

 A record 146 overdose deaths were reported in the Northern Health region in 2021. The number of deaths was up 8.2 per cent compared to 2020, and more than double the 67 deaths reported in 2019.

According to the report, 63.2 per cent of drug overdose deaths in the Northern Health region between 2018 and 2021 took place inside a private home. A further 22.1 per cent took place inside other residences or other inside locations. Only 14.1 per cent of overdoses in the Northern Health region happened outside.

Throughout the province, illicit fentanyl and fentanyl analogues were linked to 86.7 per cent of overdose deaths.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson urged the federal government to decriminalize drug use.

"We must reduce the fear and shame that leads so many to hide their drug use, avoid services and use deadly drugs alone. Addiction is not a choice, it's a health condition,” Henry and Malcolmson said. “That's why we continue to push Health Canada to approve our exemption so we can implement decriminalization of people who use drugs throughout B.C. This is a vital step to overcoming the stigma and shame associated with using drugs and helping to connect people with the supports they need.”