The BC Coroners Service has released new data on the presence of fentanyl in the province’s street drugs.
The numbers cover the first two months of 2017, and show that the powerful narcotic was detected in 139 illicit drug overdose deaths, 61 per cent.
That’s up from a mere four per cent in 2012, but down slightly from 62 per cent last year.
It says fentanyl showed up most often in the Vancouver Coastal Health region (48), followed by Fraser Health (39, then the Island Health Authority (29).
Meanwhile, the latest drug death numbers are in and paint yet another grim picture of B.C.’s overdose crisis.
The BC Coroners Service reports 120 people died of illicit drug use last month, nearly four per day, and a spike from the 102 deaths in February.
It’s also up 52 per cent from the 79 drug deaths in March of 2016.
More than half of the deaths happened in a private home, and B.C.’s top doctor says it’s heartbreaking to see people continue to lose their lives by using drugs on their own.
“Very few of the overdoses happen outside of a residence and none have happened have happened at any of our prevention sites of supervised injection sites.”
Kendall adds more work needs to reduce the stigma of drug use to convince people to take advantage of safer alternatives like supervised consumption sites.
“We have to try and persuade people not to use, or if they are going to use, to do it where they can be rescued if they overdose. And I think we need to expand our access to treatments and prevention and persuasion.”
Vancouver continues to see the highest rate of drug deaths in the province, now at 100 for 2017, nearly halfway to the 216 fatal overdoses in all of 2016.
Surrey has seen 37 for the year, while Victoria has seen 30.
Nearly three-quarters of March’s fatal overdoses were men between the ages of 19 and 49.
927 people died of overdoses in 2016. So far 2017 has claimed 347 lives>