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Overdoses down in B.C., but toxic, powerful drug is more common: coroner

A naloxone anti-overdose kit is shown in Vancouver, Friday, Feb. 10, 2017. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

VANCOUVER – New figures released by British Columbia’s coroners service suggest fewer people are dying from overdoses overall but an extremely powerful opioid is increasingly present in those fatalities.

The BC Coroners Service says the monthly average for suspected illicit drug deaths between January and the end of March this year was 89, down almost one third from the same period last year when that average was 132 people a month.

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But a synthetic opioid known as carfentanil, believed to be 100 times more toxic than fentanyl, was detected in nearly double the number of deaths in the first quarter of this year compared with all overdose deaths last year.

The coroners service says carfentanil was detected in 64 of 227 fentanyl-detected deaths by the end of March this year, compared with 35 in 2018.

It says fentanyl and its analogues were detected in almost 85 per cent of suspected illicit drug deaths in the first quarter of 2019, which is a similar rate to the same period last year.

The BC Coroners Service says there were no deaths at supervised consumption sites or drug overdose prevention sites.