Illicit drug overdoses killed nearly 1,500 in 2018

Despite significant efforts to combat overdose deaths in British Columbia, the provincial coroner says illicit drug overdose deaths increased to 1,489, just over the 2017 death total.

The BC Coroners Service says that figure is likely to go higher as death investigations conclude for last year.

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Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says the illicit drug supply is unpredictable and the opioid fentanyl is implicated in 86 per cent of the overdose deaths.

In Northern B.C., there were 80 overdose deaths recorded to the end of November 2018. Of those, at least 53 involved fentanyl.

In the Northeast, there have been 20 overdose deaths recorded, 14 of them involving fentanyl.

Forty-nine of the 80 overdose deaths in Northern B.C. were recorded in the Northern Interior — the majority of them, 38, in Prince George. Another 11 were recorded in the Northwest. 

Northern Health reported the one of the highest rates of overdose deaths for 2018, at 31 per 100,000 individuals, according to the Coroners Service.

The Fraser Health Authority region again saw the highest number fentanyl-related overdose deaths at 316, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health at 283, and Vancouver Island Health at 167.

Dr. Evan Wood, executive director with the BC Centre on Substance Use, says in a news release that the crisis isn't slowing down and there's an urgent need to end the harms caused by prohibition.

B.C.'s provincial health officer declared a public health emergency in April 2016 in response to the rise in drug overdoses and deaths.

Data from a federal task force on opioid deaths said nearly 4,000 Canadians died as a result of overdoses in 2017, a 34 per cent increase from the previous year.

— with files from the Canadian Press

© Copyright Alaska Highway News

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