More people died of overdose from illicit drugs in the first eight months of this year in B.C. than the total number last year, which was also a record-setting year.
The B.C. Coroners Service released new numbers on illicit drug overdose deaths today, Oct. 12, showing in August, 113 people died of suspected overdose, or a rough average of 3.5 deaths per day, and a 79 per cent increase from August 2016.
So far, more than 1,000 people died of suspected overdose deaths this year, almost double the number in the same period last year.
Fentanyl was detected in more than 80 per cent of suspected overdoses this year, representing an increase of more than 150 per cent over the same period in 2016, the B.C. Coroners Service says. In most cases fentanyl was combined with other drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe says at this point, no illicit substance is safe to use.
"Anyone using an illicit substance must be prepared for an adverse effect and must have someone else present who is willing and able to help," Lapointe says in the release.
She calls it heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths despite the harm reduction measures put into place.
"This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a coordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue."
Four out of five people who died from suspected illicit drug overdoses were men, and 75 per cent of deaths involved people between the ages of 30 and 59 years. Approximately 90 per cent of deaths happened indoors, including more than half in private residences.
There have been no deaths at any supervised drug consumption sites or overdose prevention sites, including those in Kelowna and Kamloops.
So far this year, there have been 60 overdose deaths in Kelowna, already more than the 47 overdose deaths in all of last year. In Kamloops, there have been 32 in 2017. Last year there were a total of 43 suspected overdose deaths in the city.
In the entire Interior Health Authority jurisdiction, there have been 173 overdose deaths from January to August of this year, already up from the total number of 162 overdose deaths in the region last year.
Approximately 22 people died from suspected illicit drug overdoses in the Interior Health region in August, up from six overdose deaths during the same month in 2016.
Read the full report here.
Catch up on the overdose crisis here.
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