Fentanyl seized at a recent bust by the Ridge Meadows RCMP. (Colleen Flanagan/THE NEWS)

Fentanyl-linked overdose deaths soar in B.C.

The opioid was the cause of 81 per cent of the 876 deaths so far this year in the province

Fentanyl has caused more than 80 per cent of drug overdose deaths in B.C. in the first seven months of 2017.

The illicit drug was detected in 706 of the 876 deaths so far this year, a new report from BC Coroners Service released Thursday says. That’s already higher than the the percentage of deaths caused by fentanyl for all of last year – 67 per cent.

In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other drugs including cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine.

The increase comes despite efforts by police and government officials to gain a hold of the opioid crisis since the continuing increase of deaths was declared a state of emergency in 2016.

READ MORE: Looking at one year since B.C. declared opioid deaths a public health crisis

In November, the RCMP signed a memorandum of understanding with China’s public security ministry to work together to fight the illegal trafficking of fentanyl into Canada.

Overdose deaths by city
Infogram

Police in Vancouver – the city seeing the lion’s share of 379 fentanyl-linked deaths – say they now expect to find fentanyl in drug raids.

Health officials have opened more than 100 overdose prevention sites across B.C., targeting cities seeing the highest number of overdoses including Surrey and Victoria.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe and provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall have both called on the support from the federal government for prescription heroin as an option for treatment.

READ MORE: Physiotherapy could help combat B.C.’s opioid crisis: report

Meanwhile, carfentanil – an opioid that’s 100 times more powerful than fentanyl and used to tranquilize elephants – was detected in 13 drug overdose deaths in June and July, the report says.

July the first month of 2017 with less than 100 overdose deaths

July saw the first substantial decrease in overdose deaths this year, acting as a bit of relief in the ongoing overdose crisis.

Ninety-one people died from drug overdoses in July. That’s five deaths every two days, compared to seven in the previous six months of the year.

Despite the decrease, the majority of deaths are still occurring indoors and hitting men aged 30 to 39 the hardest, the report shows.

In a statement, Lapointe reiterated that drug users are at high risk of overdosing when they use alone and aren’t able to get help, which has been the case in most of the fatalities.


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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