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Yukon coroner confirms 8 substance-use related deaths over span of less than 3 weeks

Yukon Coroner’s Service makes first finding of a novel benzodiazepine in death investigation
A police car with flashing lights is shown in Philadelphia on Jan. 17, 2022. According to a May 5 release by the Yukon Coroner’s Service, eight people died in the territory between April 7 and April 27 related to substance use. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Matt Rourke)

The Yukon’s coroner has confirmed eight substance-use related deaths in the Yukon over the span of less than three weeks.

According to a May 5 release by the Yukon Coroner’s Service, eight people died between April 7 and April 27 related to substance use.

Eleven substance-use related deaths have occurred in 2023. Eight of those deaths involved opioids.

Toxic illicit drugs including cocaine, opioids and benzodiazepines are continuing to kill Yukoners, as per the release. The release indicates alcohol is found to be a common contributor in some cases.

The territory has recorded 85 opioid-related deaths since April 2016.

“This substance use crisis continues to be horribly difficult and it is affecting all of us in the Yukon. These deaths are not only heartbreaking, but many are preventable. We must remain aware, and, most importantly, we all must work together to help each other as we grieve these losses across our territory. We must also remember to show our compassion, kindness and support to anyone struggling with substance use,” chief coroner Heather Jones said in the release.

“The Yukon Coroner’s Service sends our deepest condolences to all the families and communities who continue to be so severely impacted by these tragic deaths.”

Of the recent eight deaths, six took place in Whitehorse and two occurred in unnamed Yukon communities. Four women and four men make up the deaths. Half were members of First Nations. The ages ranged from 22 to 52 years old.

Four of the deaths appear to have involved people who were using substances alone.

One death was caused by cocaine poisoning, three deaths involved cocaine and fentanyl, one death involved a combination of cocaine, fentanyl and benzodiazepines in the form of etizolam and bromazolam. One more death is pending toxicology results.

According to the release, this is the first finding of bromazolam — a novel benzodiazepine first identified in 2016 — in a death investigated by the Yukon Coroner’s Service.

The release indicates these findings show the source of illicit drugs is inconsistent.

“It is possible that there can be substances in the drugs that are not known to the user, and that one batch of the same drug sold can vary from the next,” reads the release.

“Please do not use alone. I encourage people to make use of the drug checking services available from Blood Ties Four Directions, the Outreach Van and Emergency Medical Services.”

The release advises people who use substances to tell a friend what substances are being used and ensure they know who to call for help in an emergency.

“Treatment options are available, and many service providers in the Yukon are willing to support anyone affected by substance use,” reads the release.

“Naloxone is a safe and effective way to reverse opioid overdose. For more information on how to obtain and use a naloxone kit, please visit This is a simple measure that all citizens and business owners can take to prevent fatal overdoses involving opioids.”

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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