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Overdose deaths down a third in 2019

The provincial government says there is “cautious optimism” when it comes to overdose deaths.

The BC Coroners Service says they’re down overall for the first five months of 2019. In April there were 86 deaths and 84 in May. Last year those months saw 137 deaths and 116 respectively.

All told in British Columbia there have been 462 overdose deaths up to the end of May this year, compared to 651 over the same period last year. That’s a decrease of 30 per cent.

Breaking the numbers down the BC Coroners Service report shows that more than two-thirds of the overdose deaths involved people between 30 and 59-years-old, with most of them, four in every five, being men.

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Fentanyl and its analogues, such as carfentanil, continue to be the biggest reason for the deaths. It was found in roughly 83 per cent of cases so far this year, and 87 per cent last year. The fentanyl problem has grown by leaps and bounds throughout this decade. Back in 2012 it was found in only four per cent of drug deaths.

Locally, Vancouver Island has had 63 fatal overdoses in the first five months with fentanyl being found in 52 of them. Of those 63 deaths, 15 happened in the North Island region compared to 29 all of last year. Fentanyl was found in 11 of those 15.

That puts the rate for fatal ODs per 100,000 people in the North Island at 28.6, the third highest in BC. It’s up from 22.1 last year. Supervised consumption or overdose prevention sites continue to save lives as no deaths were reported at any of these facilities anywhere in BC.

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