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Fentanyl detected in 81 per cent of overdose deaths in 2017: B.C. Coroners Service

Stephanie Ip

A hand holds demonstration pills laced with pink powder representing fentanyl to illustrate inconsistent mixing during a fentanyl processing demonstration at the Calgary Police Service headquarters in Calgary on Oct. 17, 2016. (Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network)

A hand holds demonstration pills laced with pink powder representing fentanyl to illustrate inconsistent mixing during a fentanyl processing demonstration at the Calgary Police Service headquarters in Calgary on Oct. 17, 2016. (Lyle Aspinall/Postmedia Network)

About three people died per day of an overdose in the month of July, according to the latest numbers released by the B.C. Coroners Service.

There were 91 suspected drug overdose deaths in July, which is about three per day and which represents a 30 per cent increase over the same month last year. That brings the year's total of overdose deaths up to 876, an 82 per cent increase over the same period in 2016 when 482 deaths were recorded from January to July.

Of those 876 deaths, fentanyl was detected in 706 (81 per cent), a 143 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2016. Most of the cases also found other illicit drugs, such as cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine.

"In the majority of the deaths we’re investigating, we’re seeing fentanyl detected with other drugs," said chief coroner Lisa Lapointe in a statement Thursday. "This presents huge challenges for those using illicit drugs and the risk is high. Although it’s heartening to see a decline in deaths month-to-month since March, we continue to see far too many deaths in our communities."

Lapointe also noted that most overdose deaths occur indoors when users are alone and unable to seek help. She said she hoped the latest numbers would drive home the importance of reducing harm and risk, and that it would continue to foster communication about drug use.

The numbers also noted that three of every four deaths involved a person between the ages of 30 and 59, and that four of every five deaths were men. Nine of every 10 deaths also occurred indoors, with more than half taking place in private homes.

No deaths were recorded at a supervised consumption site or at any drug overdose prevention sites.

sip@postmedia.com

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