VICTORIA – More people died from illicit drug overdoses in British Columbia in the first eight months of this year than all of 2016.
The coroner’s service says the 1,013 people who died from overdoses from January to the end of August surpasses a record 982 deaths last year.
The latest figures for 2017 show fentanyl was detected either alone or with another drug in more than 80 per cent of the deaths. In 2012, fentanyl was detected in just four per cent of overdose deaths.
The province declared a state of emergency last year and took a number of steps to try and reduce the number of overdoses.
Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says the increase in deaths highlights the complex issues of drug dependency.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths throughout the province despite numerous initiatives and harm-reduction measures in place,” Lapointe said in a news release.
“We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your dealer or not.”
She said anyone using illicit drugs needs to be prepared for an overdose and have someone with them who is willing to help.
As part of the state of emergency, B.C. launched a take home naloxone program, providing training in overdose prevention to those who were susceptible. The overdose-reversing drug was also made available at pharmacies around the province.
The statistics show 91 per cent of those who have died this year were aged 19 to 59. Four out of five people who died were men.
The coroner’s service says there were no deaths at supervised consumption or drug-overdose prevention sites.
The figures say most of those who died, about 89 per cent, were inside a private home or other indoor location, while 11 per cent of the deaths occurred in vehicles or outside.
The statistics show that fentanyl, a powerful pain killer, appears to account for the increase in overdose deaths since 2012 because the deaths where the drug is not involved have remained stable at around 300 per year.