Fentanyl has been detected in more than 80 per cent of drug overdose deaths in British Columbia during the first seven months of 2017, according to the latest numbers released by the BC Coroners Service.
From January to July, fentanyl was detected in 706 of the 876 suspected drug overdose deaths, a 143 per cent increase compared to the same period last year. Most of the cases also found other illicit drugs, including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Vancouver has had the highest number of fentanyl-detected deaths so far in 2017, with 170 deaths, followed by Surrey with 80 deaths and Victoria with 52 deaths. Carfentanil has been detected in 13 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in June and July of this year.
Since 2012, there have been 379 deaths in Vancouver where fentanyl has been detected. Surrey has had the second highest number of fentanyl-detected deaths since 2012 at 177 followed by Victoria at 118.
In July 2017, there were 91 suspected drug overdose deaths, almost three per day. That represents a 30 per cent increase from July of last year. The year’s number of suspected drug overdose deaths is now up to 876, an 82 per cent increase over the same period in 2016. There were 482 deaths were recorded from January to July in 2016.
“In the majority of the deaths we’re investigating, we’re seeing fentanyl detected with other drugs. This presents huge challenges for those using illicit drugs and the risk is high,” Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said in a statement.
“Although it’s heartening to see a decline in deaths month-to-month since March, we continue to see far too many deaths in our communities.”
Lapointe also said most of the deaths occur indoors when people are using drugs alone and without the ability to get help. The numbers show nine out of every 10 deaths occurred indoors, with more than half taking place in private homes. The numbers also noted that almost three out of every four deaths involved a person between the ages of 30 and 59 and four out of every five deaths were men.
There have been no deaths at any supervised consumption site or at any of the drug overdose prevention sites.