VICTORIA, B.C.- 36 people died after overdosing on illicit drugs in the North Vancouver Island region in 2017.

Preliminary data from the province showed that there were 1,422 suspected drug overdose deaths last year, equating to a 43 per cent increase from 2016, which saw 993 overdose deaths.

Across B.C., there were fewer deaths per month from September to December (average of 96.5 deaths per month) compared with the first eight months of the year (average of 129.5 deaths per month).

“By continuing to provide timely, accurate data to the public, and policy-and decision-makers throughout the province, we’re able to support evidence-based measures to keep British Columbians safer when it comes to substance use,” said Lisa Lapointe, BC’s chief coroner.

“There is no question that this is a public-health crisis that is impacting people from all walks of life, and we need to continue to work together to help reduce stigma and increase awareness and support for those at risk.”

A provincial release stated that approx. 81 per cent of the suspected illicit drug deaths in 2017 had fentanyl detected. That’s up from 67 per cent in 2016.

In most cases, fentanyl was combined with other drugs, most often cocaine, methamphetamine or heroin. According to the release, the majority of deaths continue to occur in private residences.

Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has the highest rate of illicit drug overdose deaths at 35.9 deaths per 100,000 individuals among all health authorities. It also faced the largest increase in rate in 2017, at a 50 per cent spike over 2016.

The province revealed that approx. four out of five people who died were male, and no deaths occurred at any supervised consumption sites or drug overdose prevention sites.

Just 10 years ago, 183 people died due to overdose in British Columbia (in 2008). That number has risen significantly every year since then.

For North Vancouver Island, the number of overdose deaths jumped by eight from 2016 to 2017. 10 years ago, only six people died from an overdose.

Full statistics can be viewed through this link.