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New app shows young people bear the burden of the drug toxicity emergency

A new application showing mortality data for B.C. reveals illicit drug toxicity is one of the top causes of death and years of life lost in B.C.
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The illicit drug toxicity emergency in B.C. continues to claim the lives of young people. It is the leading cause of death for those aged 19 to 39 years, accounting for almost 45 per cent of all deaths in this age group. It is also the second-leading cause of death among those aged 40 to 59 years, accounting for more than 20 per cent of all deaths in this age group. 

This window into the impact of the drug toxicity emergency comes from a new application that provides data on mortality in B.C., developed by the BCCDC using data from BC Coroners Service and Vital Statistics. 

It also comes as the BC Coroners Service releases its most recent report on illicit drug toxicity deaths, showing that 2021 now has the highest ever recorded illicit drug toxicity deaths in a calendar year with two more months of data yet to come. In October alone, there were 201 suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths, the largest number of suspected deaths ever recorded in a month.

“The ongoing illicit drug toxicity emergency is exacting a heavy toll on our communities with an especially disproportionate loss of life among those in their 20s and 30s,” said Dr. Réka Gustafson, vice-president of Public Health and Wellness for the Provincial Health Services Authority and Deputy Provincial Health Officer. 

The new application shows all-cause mortality rates by year, dating back to 2009 as well as top causes of death by age group and month. Data can be viewed for the province or health regions. 

The app also provides data on potential years of life lost, an important metric to help us understand the burden of disease and injury. This is found by matching a person who has died to the standard life expectancy for a person of that age and sex. The potential years of life lost is higher for disease or injury that lead to death earlier in life. 

The median age of death from illicit drug toxicity is 44 years in B.C., whereas the average life expectancy at birth is currently 82 years. This makes illicit drug toxicity death the second-leading cause of total potential years of life lost and fifth leading cause of death in B.C. Malignant cancers were the leading cause of death and the leading cause of potential years of life lost. 




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