Health authority issues warning after B.C. Interior sees wave of drug-overdose deaths

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      The health authority responsible for most of the southern third of the province has issued a warning following a sharp spike in fatal drug overdoses.

      From August 17 to 26, there were seven suspected overdose deaths in the area covered by Interior Health, according to an August 31 media release.

      “The suspected overdose deaths appear to be associated with the use of illegal drugs,” it states. “Therefore, all people who use illegal drugs are being advised to take precautions to prevent overdose. Overdose deaths are occurring in private residences as well as in public spaces.

      The release does not include information in which cities the seven fatal overdoses occurred. The Fraser Health region includes the Okanagan, Thompson Cariboo, and the Kootenays.

      Numbers of drug-overdose deaths in select cities and the greater region covered by Interior Health.
      Travis Lupick / B.C. Coroners Service

      Interior Health recommends that people who use illicit drugs refrain from mixing substances, keep naloxone on hand, and never use alone.

      The Interior Health warning comes on the heels of an August 25 notice distributed by the Fraser Health authority.

      “The Fraser Health region has seen a total of 17 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths over the past week in communities ranging from Surrey to Hope,” reads an August 25 media release.

      According to the latest B.C. Coroners Service report on overdose deaths, the synthetic opioid fentanyl has been detected in 78 percent of fatal overdoses so far this year, up from 30 percent in 2015.

      In the area covered by Interior Health, there were 122 illicit-drug overdose deaths during the first six months of 2017. That compares to 162 during all of 2016, 63 the year before that, and 47 in 2014.

      Across the province, B.C. is expected to surpass 1,500 fatal overdoses this year, more than double the number recorded just two years earlier, when there were 519 fatal overdoses in 2015.

      B.C. declared public-health emergency in April 2016.