Drug overdoses are now the main driver in youth deaths in British Columbia
Drug overdoses are now the main driver in youth deaths in British Columbia

Newly released statistics by the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) shows that overdoses were the leading cause of deaths for those under 18 in the province last year. 

According to government data, a vast majority of the deaths involved the deadly opioid fentanyl. 

The BCCDC Mortality Context App lists “illicit drug toxicity” as the number one cause of deaths for those aged 10 to 18 in the year 2022. 

In the past six years, 142 young people have died from suspected drug overdoses, the BC Coroners Service reports. 

Of those, 62% of the deaths involved youth aged 17 to 18 years old. 

Vancouver pediatrician and addictions specialist James Wang told the Vancouver Sun that there simply aren’t enough resources to deal with the issue of addiction in youth. 

“There are not enough clinicians who specialize in youth substance use, so most of the care adolescents in B.C. are receiving comes from front-line workers, including ER doctors and nurses, and there hasn’t been much training,” said Wang. 

“In most youth who use substances, there is often a co-occurring mental health issue or environmental stressor such as at home or at school among peers and possibly even a genetic predisposition that puts them at higher risk.”

British Columbia also has a shortage of youth treatment beds. Out of the province’s 3,237 public substance use treatment spots only 156 are intended for those under the age of 18.

The NDP government has since promised an additional 53 beds this year as part of its budget, as well as 175 additional youth addiction workers.  

In March, Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre pledged to launch a $44 billion lawsuit against big pharma companies involved in allegedly causing the opioid pandemic. 

“Money recovered from this massive lawsuit will fund treatment and recovery programs for people struggling with addiction. We will make sure that all Canadians can access treatment and recovery programs,” said Poilievre.

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