The number of British Columbians who have died from drug overdoses in the first eight months of 2017 has already surpassed drug-related deaths for all of 2016, according to new data released by the BC Coroners Service.
“It’s heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths throughout the province despite the numerous initiatives and harm-reduction measures in place,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said. “This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a co-ordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue.”
In Kelowna, 60 people died between Jan. and Aug., 2017 compared to 47 for all of 2016.
In Vernon, 16 people have died so far in 2017 compared to 12 in 2016.
“We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your dealer or not,” Lapointe said. “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.”
Preliminary data indicate there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in B.C in August 2017 alone, more than three-and-a-half deaths per day and a 79 per cent increase from August 2016.
Over 80% (823) of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date in 2017 had fentanyl detected, representing an increase of 151 per cent over the same period in 2016. In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.
According to the BC Coroners Service, almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years of age and four out of five who died were male. Nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, including more than half in private residences.
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