The B.C. Coroners Service released statistics for March which show a near-record number of suspected overdose deaths in the province.
Data out Thursday says there were 161 suspected overdose deaths in March, just one shy of the highest monthly total recorded in December of 2016.
The figures for March are 58 per cent higher than February’s total of 102 suspected deaths from illicit drugs and 24 per cent higher than the same month last year.
For the year to date, 2018 overdoses are close to the record pace of 2017 with 391 deaths through the first three months of data, compared to 400 last year.
There were 1,448 suspected deaths from illicit drugs in 2017.
Fentanyl has been detected in 83 per cent of post-mortem testing in the 391 deaths this year.
Most of the overdose deaths in 2018 are men with 319 and more people are dying in their 30s from suspected overdose cases among all age groups with 101 deaths or 25.8 per cent.
VANCOUVER ISLAND HAS SECOND-HIGHEST RATE OF OVERDOSE DEATHS AMONG HEALTH AUTHORITIES
While the Fraser and Vancouver Coastal Health Authorities have a higher overall number of suspected deaths from illicit drugs in 2018, Vancouver Island has the second-highest overdose rate.
There have been 73 deaths on Vancouver Island to a suspected overdose through March, a rate of 36.8 people per 100,000, just one-tenth of a per cent behind the Vancouver Coastal rate.
28 of those deaths on the Island happened in March.
Among health services delivery areas in the province, south Vancouver Island has the third highest total of suspected overdose deaths with 43, and the third highest rate of fatal illicit drug use with 44 deaths per 100,000 people.
2018 is well on pace to break the record 103 overdose deaths in the area last year, which had a rate of 26.6 deaths per 100,000.
There have been 22 deaths from a suspected overdose on central Vancouver Island, which has a rate of 31.6 deaths per 100,000 people.
For north Vancouver Island, there have been a total of eight suspected overdose deaths for a rate of 25.7 per 100,000.
Both rates are down in 2018 for central and north Vancouver Island compared to the total 2017 rates.
Vancouver leads the province in both statistical categories with 102 people that have died from the suspected use of illicit drugs, for a rate of 59.6.