Illicit drug deaths continue to show a deepening overdose crisis in BC according to the BC Coroners Service.

The Service released data Thursday and notes that the province’s illicit drug overdose deaths, through the first eight months of 2017, already have surpassed the 2016 total for the entire year.

Preliminary data indicates there were 113 suspected drug overdose deaths in August 2017 alone, a 79% increase from August 2016.

Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe calls it heartbreaking to see the continued high numbers of deaths despite the numerous initiatives and harm reduction measures in place.

“This highlights the complexities of drug dependency and illicit drug use, and the importance of a co-ordinated, health-focused approach to this medical issue,” said Lapointe.

“We also need people to know that no illicit substance in this province can be considered safe, whether you know your dealer or not. Anyone using an illicit substance must be prepared for an adverse effect and must have someone else present who is willing and able to help.”

Over 80% of the suspected illicit drug deaths to date had fentanyl detected and in most cases was combined with other illicit drugs, most often cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines.

Almost three out of every four deaths involved persons between the ages of 30 and 59 years, with four out of five who died were male.