Yukon leads the country with highest per-capita overdose death rate

Jan 24, 2023

In an update published on December 15, Yukon’s Chief Coroner Dr. Heather Jones stated that a total of 25 people died from toxic drug use in the territory during 2022. These numbers correspond to the record-high 2021 overdose-related death statistics for the territory.

“Toxic illicit drugs involving cocaine, opioids and benzodiazepines continue to take lives in the Yukon,” states the news release. “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.”

Moreover, opioids were involved in 20 deaths in 2022 in Yukon, with 19 deaths involving fentanyl. Data from the territory’s chief coroner shows that in the first three months of 2022, the territory’s substance use death rate was 74.4 per 100,000, which corresponds to over three times the national average and significantly ahead of British Columbia, which has a substance use death rate of 45.3 deaths per 100,000.

The substance crisis reached the Yukon in 2016, when the territory recorded its first substance-use deaths, as British Columbia called a state of emergency over its ongoing overdose crisis. Since then, the number of overdose-related deaths in the territory have spiked, with an increase attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 76 people died from opioid use in the Yukon since April 2016.

Furthermore, 14 of the deaths which took place in 2022 involved cocaine in combination with an opioid, while five cases involved cocaine and no opioids. Benzodiazepines were also detected in six overdose death cases, while alcohol was a factor in at least seven cases.

According to Dr. Jones, declaring a substance use emergency was a positive step for the province, but she also noted that Yukon still leads the country with per-capita toxic illicit drug-related deaths.

“This crisis is affecting all of us in the Yukon,” Dr. Jones said in a released statement. “Now more than ever, we must remember to show our compassion, kindness and support to anyone struggling with substance use.”