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Overdose deaths in B.C. up 88 per cent this year

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May 13, 2016 - 4:49 PM

FENTANYL INCREASING AS CULPRIT IN DEATHS

BRITISH COLUMBIA – The B.C. Coroners Service says there were 88 per cent more overdoses on illegal drugs this year than there were last year.

According to the most recent statistics, there were 256 overdose deaths in B.C. from January to the end of April. During the same period last year there were 136.

Fentanyl was detected in 49 per cent of the deaths, also up from last year’s when coroners found the deadly opioid in only 32 per cent.

“Fentanyl is most often detected in combination with other illicit substances,” the B.C. Coroners Service website says. “Those using illicit drugs are urged to exercise extreme caution, given the significant numbers of deaths involving fentanyl and the lethality of this drug.”

Image Credit: B.C. Coroners

Deaths attributed to fentanyl have risen steadily. In 2012 there were 13 but that number more than doubled to 49 within a year. 152 people died from fentanyl in 2015 and B.C. has already lost 98 people to it this year. 

Many of those, like one Kelowna father, think they are buying heroin, but it turns out to be pure fentanyl - with tragic results.

Image Credit: B.C. Coroners

Since the start of 2015 until the end of April, Kelowna had 12 overdose deaths – the most in the Interior.

Kamloops is second with eight followed by Vernon, which lost four. Penticton had only one fentanyl-related overdose death in the last year and a half. There have been 52 fentanyl deaths in Vancouver since the start of 2015.

Most overdoses occur to users between 20 and 50-years-old, with almost four times more men than women.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says it’s critically important that users have medical assistance or a support person nearby when taking drugs that may contain fentanyl or W18, a new drug that is 100 times more powerful and has been found in Kelowna.

"Naloxone is now widely available in the province, including in some pharmacies without a prescription, and can be administered by anyone trained to use it," Lapointe said. "This administration is often extremely successful in preventing what would otherwise be a tragic opiate drug overdose death."

A fake oxycontin pill Health Canada says contained fentanyl.
A fake oxycontin pill Health Canada says contained fentanyl.
Image Credit: RCMP


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