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B.C. teen's overdose death linked to cocaine and MDMA, 'unlikely' prescription opioids contributed, coroner finds

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The tragic overdose death of a 14-year-old girl from B.C.'s Lower Mainland, which made national headlines last summer, does not appear to have been caused by prescription opioids, coroners have concluded.

A coroner's report found Kamilah Sword's death was the result of "cardiac arrhythmia following cocaine and MDMA use."

While toxicology testing confirmed the presence of other drugs in the teenager's system – including hydromorphone, a drug sometimes prescribed under the province's safe supply program – the report said the additional substances are "considered unlikely to have played a role in her death."

The report also noted that hydromorphone is much more commonly prescribed for pain management than it is to people with substance use disorder.

"Testing cannot determine the reason for which the hydromorphone was prescribed. From where and when any of the substances were obtained by Kamilah is unknown," it reads.

The teenager's death was classified as accidental.

Sword's body was discovered on the floor of her bedroom at around 8 a.m. on Aug. 20, 2022, hours after she was last seen alive.

Canadians learned about the heartbreaking incident last summer when her grieving father came forward with concerns about the B.C.’s safe supply program, though he acknowledged at the time that the source of the drugs his daughter had used was unclear.

Greg Sword also lamented the barriers his family faced seeking help for the teenager, who turned to drugs after struggling through the isolating conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We opened up the doors from COVID, we threw all these girls back down onto the street like nothing happened, and they were struggling with anxiety and peer pressure," he told CTV News last August.

The teenager was hospitalized four times related to drug toxicity prior to her death, but because she refused professional help, her father said the family was at a loss with how to address her drug use.

"I’m reaching out to the counsellors and all I ever got was, 'Until she reaches for help, we can’t do anything for her,'" he said.

The incident ignited new debate over safe supply and what’s known as diversion, or the re-selling of prescribed substances for a profit. Federal Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre opined on social media last year that Sword was dead "because (Justin) Trudeau floods the streets with 'dillies,'" referencing a slang term for Dilaudid, a brand name of hydromorphone.

Officials have acknowledged an issue with diversion since B.C. began using the program as a means of reducing overdose deaths.

Experts continue to support expanding the province's safe supply program, however, and have recommended solutions to diversion, such as requiring users to either consume substances on-site or pay street prices for them.

On Thursday, the Provincial Health Services Authority touted the results of a landmark study that found drug users with at least one day’s supply of prescribed opioids were 61 per cent less likely to die the following week than those without prescriptions.

“With more than 13,300 lives lost in B.C. since 2016, and one of the highest death rates in the country, we need to identify and evaluate interventions that keep people alive,” said co-author Dr. Amanda Slaunwhite, of the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, in a statement.

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