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91 percent of fatal overdoses in Northern B.C. involved fentanyl

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The BC Coroners Service has released the latest statistics looking at the ongoing fatal drug overdoes epidemic which shows a large spike in the number of illicit drug overdoses across the province in March.

Preliminary data indicates that 161 B.C. residents died of a drug overdose in March, a jump of 59 compared to February. That’s a 58 percent increase compared to the 102 deaths that occurred in February, and a 24 percent increase over the number of fatalities in March 2017.

The overdose death rate in Northern B.C. surged in March after trailing the rest of the province. After recording nine deaths in the first two months of the year, Northern Health recorded 13 deaths in March alone, bringing the yearly total to 22. 

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Photo by BC Coroners Service

Three of last month’s deaths occurred in Northeast B.C., while eight occurred in the Northern Interior, and the Northwest region recorded its first fatal overdose of the year. The Northern Interior now has the second-highest rate of fatal drug overdoses of any region in the province, with 45.8 deaths per 100,000 residents. The fatality rate in Northeast B.C. is below the provincial average at 27 deaths per 100,000, while the Northern Health rate as a whole was the second-lowest in B.C. at 30.8 deaths per 100,000.

The Coroners Service also released its quarterly statistics on the number of fatal overdoses in which fentanyl was detected. 

Of the 161 people across the province who died from an overdose, 129 had fentanyl detected in their systems, which works out to just over 80 percent. The number of fatal fentanyl overdoses across B.C. in March was higher than the 82 seen in February, and the 112 in January. The rate of fentanyl overdoses was even higher in Northern B.C. 

Eleven of the 13 people who died last month in the North had fentanyl detected, while all of the fatal overdoses in January and February involved fentanyl. Four of the five fatal overdoses in Northeast B.C. were fentanyl overdoses. 

Of the 22 fatal overdoses so far this year in Northern Health, 20 were recorded as fentanyl-detected overdoses, which works out to 91 percent of deadly overdoses.

The BC Coroners Service is urgently reminding anyone using illicit drugs not to use alone. Those using substances should have someone nearby equipped and trained to administer naloxone or able to call 911 immediately if an overdose occurs.

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