A recent news release by the Yukon Coroners Service (YCS) continues to paint a grim picture of the territory’s opioid and addiction crisis.
YCS confirmed in a Dec. 15 news release that 25 people in the territory have died from toxic illicit drug use since Jan. 1, 2022.
Chief Coroner Heather Jones told APTN News that 17 of the 25 people who died were Indigenous. She said drug-related deaths account for a quarter of the cases she investigates.
“This crisis is affecting all of us in the Yukon,” Jones noted in a statement. “Now, more than ever, we must remember to show our compassion, kindness and support to anyone struggling with substance use.”
According to the release, 20 cases involved opioids, 19 involved fentanyl and 14 were a combination of cocaine with an opioid. A full analysis is still pending for one of the 14 cases.
Drugs and alcohol
Benzodiazepines or benzos were confirmed in six cases, while cocaine was found in five not involving opioids, and alcohol was a factor in at least seven.
“While the Yukon took a positive step in acknowledging the devastation of these losses and taking action to make a difference by declaring a substance use health emergency in January of this year,” the release stated, “our territory continues to lead the country with per capita toxic illicit drug-related deaths.
“Each one of these deaths is a tragedy, and our communities continue to struggle with the grief and pain associated with the loss of life from the substance use health crisis.”
The number of deaths this year matches the number of toxic illicit drug deaths in 2021.
Last year, 24 of the cases were opioid-involved and all cases involved fentanyl. Cocaine was involved in 16, benzos in five, and alcohol linked to 11 cases.
Carfentanil, a synthetic opioid approximately 10,000 times more potent than morphine and 100 times more potent than fentanyl, was also found in two cases last year.
“I believe we’re beyond stigmatizing these deaths, these people,” Jones said.
“We can reach out, be aware, be helpful to each other and be very mindful of who’s vulnerable and who’s using alone.”
Since April 2016 the territory has recorded 76 opioid-related deaths.