Overdose deaths in B.C

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe announced Monday that 755 people have died in B.C. of an illicit drug overdose between January and November, a 70 per cent increase over the same period a year ago.

The crisis took another troubling turn on Friday when an urgent warning was sent out to illicit drug users after 11 people died in the province the day before, six of them in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.

The Coroners Service says, so far, there have been 40 recorded overdose deaths in Kelowna compared to only 19 the same time past year.

There were 374 fatal overdoses linked to fentanyl between January and October of this year - there were 127 during the same period last year.

From 2000 to 2010, the number of fatal overdoses in B.C. remained relatively stable, at an average of 207 per year.

"Clearly illicit drugs are becoming increasingly unpredictable and increasingly perilous".

The number of overdose deaths in Kelowna this year has surpassed last year's total.

"We're not sure if a more toxic strain of fentanyl is to blame or if it is the terrifying carfentanil", said Lapointe. "The statistics released by the BC Coroners Service today show this work has never been more important, and we will continue to do everything we can here in B.C to combat this crisis".

Men aged 30 to 49 accounted for the largest number of people who died this year.

She also referred to the "broad national acknowledgement that a health-centred approach is necessary".

The province's latest move was to announce plans for overdose-prevention sites in Vancouver, Victoria, Surrey and Prince George where people can inject illicit drugs while monitored by trained professionals equipped with naloxone, which reverses the effects of opioid overdoses.

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