Drug overdose deaths surge in B.C.

Statistics reveal a 74 per cent jump in drug overdose deaths in B.C. compared to the same period of 2015.

Drug overdoses in B.C. surge.

Drug overdoses in B.C. surge.

Although provincial statistics have shown a dramatic increase in illicit drug overdoses, the West Kootenay region has been, for the most part, immune.

Statistics released for the first half of 2016 now show 371 people died in B.C. of illicit drug overdoses, a 74 per cent jump from the same period of 2015.

Fentanyl was detected in about 60 per cent of the deaths for which testing has been performed, up from a 31 per cent detection rate for the powerful opioid in 2015.

However, the same data showed the Trail-Nelson-Castlegar area recorded three fentanyl-detected deaths in the past three years. Trail had one in 2014, Nelson had one in 2015 and Castlegar had one earlier this year.

Despite the low West Kootenay numbers, the B.C. Coroners Service says fentanyl-linked deaths that were in past years mainly concentrated in the Lower Mainland are now regularly happening throughout B.C.

On Vancouver Island and in the southern Interior, more deaths tied to fentanyl have been detected so far in 2016 than in all of 2015.

Cities with 10 or more fentanyl-related deaths so far this year include Vancouver (29), Surrey (22), Victoria (19), Nanaimo (13), Kelowna (12) and Maple Ridge (10).

The largest numbers of total illicit drug deaths for the first six months of 2016 have been recorded in Vancouver (69), Surrey (44), Victoria (29), Kamloops (22), Kelowna (19), Abbotsford(16) and Nanaimo and Maple Ridge, both with 15.

The Fraser health region accounted for 114 deaths or 30 per cent of the provincial total.

While the 56 new overdose deaths recorded B.C.-wide in June were down slightly from this year’s worst months of January through April, the new number was still very high by historical standards.

With files from Jeff Nagel/Black Press

 

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