Illicit drug deaths reaches record high 914 in BC in 2016

The BC Coroners Service will release the latest numbers on overdose deaths in the province Wednesday, an increasingly depressing monthly ritual.

New stats from the Province show that British Columbia recorded more illicit drug overdose deaths last month than ever before.

More than 900 British Columbians died of illicit drug overdoses last year - almost double the number from the previous year and the worst in three decades of record keeping.

Fentanyl had previously been reported as one of the main drugs found in illicit drug deaths but the Coroners Service announced this afternoon that they won't have the information for 2016 until March because of the amount of testing they are still conducting. In Vernon there were 13 overdose deaths.

Together, the months of November and December account for 30 per cent of all deaths in 2016.

- About 73 per cent of deaths were among people aged 19 to 49, and males accounted for 80.7 per cent of deaths in 2016. Surrey saw 108 deaths in 2016 (up from 76) and 66 were recorded in Victoria (up from 18).

"The risks are now unmanageable", said Lapointe.

Lake says drug replacement treatments like Suboxone, which don't give the user a high, will also now be available for free to people who qualify for MSP assistance.

None of the deaths occurred at so-called overdose prevention sites allowed to operate by the province in Vancouver and across the province, where volunteers are trained how to administer the overdose-reversing drug, naloxone.

The Province is now investing more than $16 million to increase addiction treatment services.

"We are experiencing one of the most tragic health crises of our time", said Health Minister Terry Lake in a release from the Province.

"It's crucial that people working to rebuild their lives have a range of affordable, easy-to-access services to support their journey every step of the way", he said, noting follow-up supports such as counselling will be available for patients for up to a year. An indication drug overdose deaths were increasing in Vancouver occurred in 2014, when 99 people died.

The region saw a total of 17 fatal overdoses in 2016, up from just four in 2015.

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