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Nearly 500 in B.C. died of an overdose in first three months of 2021, coroner reports

B.C. reported 158 illicit drug deaths in March 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Mark Lennihan, File

More than five people a day died of a drug overdose in B.C. last month, the coroners service has reported.

The service said Thursday that 158 British Columbians died from an overdose in March, up 41 per cent from the same month last year.

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Toxic illicit drugs have killed 498 people during the first three months of 2021 — 97 more than the same time period last year. Eighty per cent of the victims this year so far have been men.

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The numbers come on the heels of a record-high 1,716 overdose deaths in 2020.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said the illicit drug supply continues to be volatile and unpredictable.

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Earlier this month, B.C. marked the fifth anniversary of the province declaring a public health emergency on drug overdoses.

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Since 2016, more than 7,000 people have died of an overdose.

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Earlier this month, BC Emergency Health Services said paramedics responded to B.C.’s highest single-day number of overdose calls.

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Crews dealt with 138 potential overdoses: 45 of them in Vancouver, 17 of them in Surrey, 10 in Victoria and 66 across the rest of the province.

— With files from Gord Macdonald and Simon Little

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