Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths


Unintentional deaths (accidental and undetermined) attributed to illicit drug toxicity, expressed as a rate per 100,000 population. This includes confirmed and suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths.

Methods and Limitations:

The BC Coroners Service is mandated to investigate all unnatural, sudden, and unexpected deaths in British Columbia (BC). However, not all deaths are reported to the BC Coroners Service.

Illicit drug toxicity cases can present investigational challenges that make it difficult to collect information, including a lack of witnesses at drug-related scenes or the decedent’s lack of contact with family or friends.

In November 2016, the BC Coroners Service created the Drug Death Investigation Team (DDIT) to gather data on illicit drug toxicity deaths in a consistent and timely manner. Every suspected illicit drug toxicity death in BC is referred to the DDIT for investigation.

The illicit drug toxicity category includes the following substances:

  • Street drugs (controlled and illegal drugs: heroin, cocaine, MDMA, methamphetamine, illicit fentanyl etc.)
  • Medications not prescribed to the decedent but obtained or purchased on the street, from unknown means or where origin of drug not known
  • Combinations of the above with prescribed medications

As of July 1, 2020, the BC Coroners Service implemented an expedited toxicology testing protocol to test for 21 drugs across four broad categories: fentanyl and analogues, stimulants, other opioids, and benzodiazepines and analogues. Samples from suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths are sent for expedited testing and reported presumptively prior to completing confirmatory testing.

The BC Coroners Service works in a real-time database environment and therefore statistics for a given year are subject to change until all coroner’s investigations from that year are complete. Data are not directly comparable to published counts from previous years.


Data is updated on Vital Victoria as it becomes available from the data providers.


Illicit Drug Toxicity Deaths in the Sustainable Development Goals

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