BC Coroners record 780 fatal overdoses, 28 in the North

A mural in the Downtown Eastside tallies 2016's opioid overdose deaths a number that has only continued to rise in 2017

Jennifer Gauthier For Metro A mural in the Downtown Eastside tallies 2016's opioid overdose deaths a number that has only continued to rise in 2017

There were 928 suspected opioid overdoses reported to IH between June 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.

Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says while it's a relief the monthly toll is down, there is still a significant increase from past year and we are still losing loved and valued members of our communities at a tragic rate.

The persistent problem is those who use drugs alone.

Despite a public health emergency and the approval of naloxone kits, the number of illicit drug deaths in B.C.is continuing to rise this year at a rate of nearly four each day, according to the latest statistics released by the BC Coroners Service.

Across B.C., there were 780 fatalities between January and June, many of which were people who died alone, said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe.

In the first six months of 2017, May had the highest number of overdose deaths at 26 deaths.

"The drug supply is unsafe and anyone using illicit drugs is at high risk for overdose". In Victoria, there have been 50 overdose deaths so far this year.

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Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health Authority have the highest number of illicit drug deaths for the year to date at 258 and 249 respectively. The opioid fentanyl was detected in almost 80 per cent of deaths between January and May.

"We've had people come home at lunch to use cocaine and then they're found dead when they didn't show up at work", she said.

Symptoms of respiratory distress caused by an overdose include having difficulty of waking up and heavy snoring, and 911 should be called immediately.

"We developed an enhanced investigation protocol for drug overdoses, so any suspected drug overdose death, we're collecting 11 pages worth of data, and the coroners are now asking a number of additional questions", said Lapointe.

"Even though these months' numbers are somewhat lower than previous months, it would be premature to take any comfort from that, " said Dr. Perry Kendall, B.C.'s chief medical health officer.

BC's top doctor feels there is more that can be done to fight the ongoing opioid overdose crisis as the number of people dying in this province, and across the country, continues to rise. In 2016, there was a total of 67 deaths.

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