Medicine

March overdose deaths reached near-record level in BC

March overdose deaths reached near-record level in BC

The opioid crisis in British Columbia shows no signs of slowing as the province saw the second-highest number of monthly overdose deaths in March.

But that optimism seems short-lived, as the first three months of this year saw 391 overdose deaths, nearly on par with the 400 recorded in the first three months of 2017.

Vancouver has seen an average of 34 deaths a month this year, up from last year's 30.5 during the same period.

The coroners service says the opioid was detected in post-mortem testing on 83 per cent of victims who died in the first three months of 2018.

It's also a massive 58 per cent jump from the previous month, as there were only 102 overdose deaths in February.

Despite the efforts, however, overdose deaths in 2018 are on par with record numbers seen previous year, when 400 people died between January and the end of March.

The vast majority - 90.

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The three townships experiencing the highest amount of overdose deaths are Vancouver, Surrey and Victoria.

About eight in 10 of the 391 deaths between January and March were due to the illicit versions of the painkiller fentanyl, according to toxicology reports by the coroners service.

The March 2018 total nearly equals the 162 illicit drug overdose deaths in December 2016.

In February, 102 people were suspected to have died from the same cause'.

Both rates are down in 2018 for central and north Vancouver Island compared to the total 2017 rates.

In a news release, the coroners service said it "urgently reminds" people using illicit drugs to never consume alone, and always have someone nearby who can administer naloxone or call 911.


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