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article imageBC overdose deaths are still rising, despite preventive measures

By Karen Graham     Apr 15, 2017 in Health
Vancouver - Today marks one year since a public health emergency was declared in British Columbia in the wake of an alarming rise in opioid-related drug overdose deaths. Preventive measures have been put in place, however, the number of deaths continue to rise.
In a written statement Friday, B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Perry Kendall said: “Tragically, in that 12-month period we have seen an additional 919 deaths."
CTV News Canada reports that in 2016, there were 922 illicit drug overdose deaths in the province, up from 513 in 2015 and 366 in 2014.
More disturbing is the B.C.’s Coroners Service report that shows there were 219 illicit drug overdose deaths in the province in the first two months of 2017.
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BC Coroners Service
Based on the Coroner's report, that means there has been a 65 percent increase in the number of opioid drug overdose deaths in 2017 compared to the same period last year. And we're not talking about teenagers either. The age group most at risk were those age 30 to 39.
The report summarizes its findings: "There were 102 suspected drug overdose deaths in Feb 2017. This is a 72.9 percent increase over the number of deaths occurring in Feb 2016 (59). The number of illicit drug overdose deaths in Feb 2017 (102) equates to about 3.6 deaths per day for the month."
As usual, fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid, continued to be a major player in the number of overdose deaths. In a March 2017 report by the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, fentanyl was detected in 60 percent of all overdose deaths in 2016. In comparison, fentanyl was detected in only five percent of illicit drug deaths in 2012.
In the same report, the BCCDC also reported that the highly toxic synthetic opioid, carfentanil, has been detected in all five geographic health authorities of BC. Carfentanil is extraordinarily potent and is usually used to sedate very large animals, like elephants.
Safe injection sites provide a  safe and clean place to inject drugs and connect to health care serv...
Safe injection sites provide a safe and clean place to inject drugs and connect to health care services.
Vancouver Coastal Health
BC's Preventive measures were not in vain
Dr. Kendall pointed out that the province opened almost two dozen overdose prevention sites (OPS) in 2016, acquiring 30,000 naloxone kits, which can reverse opioid overdoses. The province has also initiated awareness campaigns that stress opioid addiction is a health condition that affects everyone.
And Dr. Kendall says all the initiatives put in place have not been in vain, talking about the hundreds of lives that have been saved and the many addicts that are now in treatment centers because of the measures the province has taken.
“While the continued toll is discouraging, we must also acknowledge that because of these actions, hundreds of people are alive and hundreds more are now in treatment and recovery who would not be if not for these interventions.”
The Globe and Mail cites the number of lives saved by the use of naloxone in BC last year, reporting that for every overdose death in the province, 27 additional overdoses were reversed, based on statistics from hospitals, EMT services, and other sources.
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