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914

That's how many people died of drug overdoses in BC last year

More than 900 People Died of Drug Overdoses in BC Last Year

British Columbia’s opioid crisis took 914 lives in 2016, according to new statistics released by the BC Coroner. The province’s chief medical officer Perry Kendall called the revelation “surprising and disheartening.”

December proved to be the deadliest month of the year, with 142 overdose deaths recorded. Fifty-one of those deaths were in Vancouver, averaging more than one per day. The new numbers make 2016 the deadliest year on record, stemming from a spike that began in November.

The year began with a rash of fatal overdoses, setting a record of 82 overdoses in January. At the time, officials speculated that as many as 800 could die last year. Though the pace of deaths slowed in the spring, due in part to efforts to equip firefighters with the opioid-blocking drug naloxone, the proportion of deaths where fentanyl was detected rose to 60 percent.

Over the summer, fentanyl-spiked cocaine was suspected in a case of nine overdoses in the span of 30 minutes. At the time, cocaine was detected in nearly half of fentanyl deaths.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe stressed that the super-potent opioid continues to show up on other recreational drugs. “Fentanyl is frequently being found with cocaine and methamphetamine,” she told media Wednesday afternoon.

January’s record was broken in November, when 128 overdose deaths were recorded. Officials have speculated that rise is associated with the arrival of carfentanil, an even more potent opioid.

Due to volume of tests, the coroner did not provide an update on the percentage of cases in which fentanyl or carfentanil was detected.

Cover: Photo by Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

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