Illegal drugs: 17 deaths in seven months in the Yukon

Drugs illicit: 17 deaths in seven months in the Yukon

In 2022, in the Yukon, fentanyl is implicated in 14 out of 17 deaths.

Since the start of the year, 17 people have died of illicit drug overdoses in the Yukon, the Coroner's Office says.

A news release says the deaths represent a third of the deaths that are the subject of an investigation by the service.

The latter is also awaiting the results of the toxicological analyzes of three other victims, but according to the press release, all suggests that these deaths are also drug-related.

“This follows the catastrophic and record numbers seen in 2021, when 25 lives were lost in 12 months.

—Yukon Coroner's Office

Since April 2016, Yukon has had 71 opioid-related deaths.

Each of these deaths was preventable and our communities continue to grapple with the grief and pain associated with the loss of a life as a result of the substance use health crisis, the statement added.

Fentanyl is implicated in the majority of deaths. There is also a high use of cocaine and benzodiazepines. The vast majority of deaths (82%) occurred in Whitehorse.

The average age of victims is 40 years old.

The proportion of men and women affected is relatively equal, but Indigenous peoples are over-represented (71%) in the total casualty count.

In a separate statement, the Coroner's Office said it had requested an inquest into the January 19 deaths of two women at the Whitehorse emergency shelter. These two cases are among the cases cited above.

The Chief Coroner will appoint a coroner to preside over the inquest pursuant to Part 6 of the Coroners Act, the statement said. .

The date and location of the investigation will then be decided.

As the opioid crisis continues in the territory, the Coroner's Office notes that the Yukon continues to lead the country in the number of toxic illicit drug-related deaths per capita.

In January, given the magnitude of the problem, the territorial government declared a state of emergency on illicit drug use. This statement notably provided access to additional funding for mental health and addictions supports, as well as a territory-wide screening program.

The month Last year, Health and Human Services Minister Tracy Anne-McPhee announced that the government was considering decriminalizing the possession of small amounts of drugs, just as British Columbia did earlier this year.

A position supported by Heather Jones, Yukon's Chief Coroner.

This encourages the shift of resources from a court-based model to a health and social care-based model, says Heather Jones. It also recognizes that substance use is a medical condition rather than something that should be stigmatized or criminalized.

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