Drug overdose deaths this year now more than all of 2015

555 lives lost in B.C. in first nine months, fentanyl detected in 61 per cent of cases

Another 59 B.C. residents died in September from illicit drug overdoses – up from 49 in August –bringing the total for the year so far to 555.

That exceeds the 508 lives lost to drug overdoses in all of 2015.

Fentanyl continues to be detected in about 61 per cent of fatal drug overdoses, according to the latest statistics released by the B.C. Coroners Service.

The 302 cases in which fentanyl was detected is more than triple the number for the same nine months of 2015.

More overdose deaths happened in the Fraser Health region – 195 so far in 2016 – than Vancouver Coastal (128), Vancouver Island (107) or the Interior (93).

The top cities where deaths occurred were Vancouver (110), Surrey (71), Victoria (44), Kelowna (31), Abbotsford (26), Kamloops (25) and Maple Ridge (22).

A multi-prong response strategy has been underway since the province declared a public health emergency in April and created a dedicated task force in July.

Efforts include making naloxone much more widely available to reverse overdoses in progress.

The strategy also aims to block fentanyl production and distribution, increase harm-reduction options, foster greater public education and increase the number of addiction recovery beds.

The rate of deaths from opioid overdoses has skyrocketed across British Columbia since 2011.