B.C. sees number of overdose deaths decline in first six months of 2019

VANCOUVER — The latest figures from British Columbia's coroners service show fewer people are dying from drug overdoses and the number of deaths related to carfentanil has decreased over the past two months.

In June 73 people died of suspected illicit drug overdoses, a drop of 35 per cent compared with 113 for the same month last year, the service said, adding there were 86 deaths in May.

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Fentanyl was detected in more than four of every five deaths in 2018 and during the first six months of this year, it said.

"It shows that people don't know what they're getting," said spokesman Andy Watson.

"It shows that there is a risk when you're accessing drugs so it shows as well that some of these deaths are preventable."

The detection of carfentanil peaked at 32 deaths in March, but the service said deaths related to the synthetic opioid decreased in May and June.

Carfentanil is believed to be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl. It is used as a sedative for large animals, such as elephants, and can be deadly to humans in extremely small amounts.

Watson said authorities will continue to monitor the decrease to see what they're dealing with.

Data showed males accounted for 78 per cent of all suspected illicit drug toxicity deaths for the first six months of 2019.

No deaths were reported at supervised consumption sites or drug overdose prevention sites, the data showed.

Watson said it's encouraging to see the number of B.C.'s illicit drug deaths are on the decline but said there is still concern over the number and severity of non-fatal overdoses in the province.

British Columbia has a higher proportion of illicit drug deaths related to other provinces, he said.

"So we do know that the drug supply in B.C. is toxic and that's one of the reasons we continue to urge people not to use alone," he said.

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