Canada could see more than 4,000 opioid-overdose deaths by the end of 2017, government warns

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      At least 1,460 people across Canada died of an opioid overdose during the first six months of 2017.

      That number, released today (December 18) by the Public Health Agency of Canada, is a preliminary figure. It will grow because data supplied by Ontario, Quebec, and Manitoba remains incomplete.

      “Tragically, if current trends continue, we may see more than 4,000 deaths in 2017,” reads a December 18 statement attributed to Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam.

      That compares to 2,861 opioid-related deaths that Health Canada recorded in 2016.

      So far this year, the synthetic-opioids fentanyl and fentanyl analogues are associated with 74 percent of opioid-related deaths across Canada. That’s up from 53 percent in 2016.

      “While the opioid crisis has affected all regions, some have been harder hit than others. Western provinces and territories continue to report higher rates of opioid-related deaths,” Tam continued, quoted in the release.

      “The data released today help to provide an updated picture of the opioid crisis in Canada; however, the picture is still not complete. The provinces and territories continue to refine their data, and the federal government is committed to assisting with analysis and reporting.”

      Canada only began tracking overdose deaths at the federal level in 2016.

      In B.C., the coroners service has closely monitored illicit-drug fatalities since the early 1990s.

      According to that data, illicit-drug overdose deaths in B.C. have risen sharply in recent years, from 333 in 2013 to 519 in 2015 to more than 1,400 deaths projected for 2017.