The alarming rate of drug overdose statistics, plus increasing fentanyl deaths, has prompted a public presentation Monday at Fulton on the topic. (Black Press file photo)

The alarming rate of drug overdose statistics, plus increasing fentanyl deaths, has prompted a public presentation Monday at Fulton on the topic. (Black Press file photo)

Overdose epidemic death toll in Abbotsford reaches 29 for 2017

The BC Coroners Service says 129 people died during the month of May across the province

Abbotsford residents are dying from overdoses at a rate nearly 50 per cent higher than last year, according to new data from the BC Coroners Service.

Twenty-nine people died of illicit drug overdoses through May 31. That figure is already just 10 shy of last year’s grisly total, which was itself a record for Abbotsford, and puts the city on pace for nearly 60 such deaths.

Abbotsford has seen the fifth-most deaths in British Columbia, behind only Vancouver, Surrey, Victoria and Kelowna.

Although a public health emergency was declared in April of last year, the rate at which people are dying of overdoses has increased dramatically since then.

Before November 2016, the province had never seen as many as 100 deaths in a single month. Now, and in every month since, numbers routinely exceed 110.

This jump in drug-related deaths culminated in December, when numbers reached an all-time high of 159 deaths in that month alone.

Research from the BC Coroners Service also shows the proportion of illicit drug deaths where fentanyl was detected continues to climb. Last year, roughly 60 per cent of these deaths included fentanyl, but that number has risen to 72 per cent through the first four months of 2017.

Overdose deaths by city
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“The number of deaths shows that the risks remain extreme,” said Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe, adding that people should avoid experimentation or any casual use of illicit drugs.

“The drug supply is unsafe, and casual and occasional users are at high risk of overdose due to their opioid naiveté.”

Lapointe also urges those who are drug-dependent to only use when medical help is available, such as an overdose prevention site or in the company of a sober person with access or training in the use of naloxone.

Some signs of a possible overdose include:Heavy snoring

Inability to wake them up

Respiratory distress

More than 80 per cent of illicit drug deaths are men and almost 75 per cent involve someone between the ages of 30-59. Most of these deaths occur indoors, and none have been reported from supervised consumption sites or overdose prevention sites, according to a release from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and the BC Coroners Service.

– with files from Ragnar Haagen

 

Overdose epidemic death toll in Abbotsford reaches 29 for 2017