161 overdose deaths make March 2nd-deadliest month in BC history



March saw the second-highest number of illicit-drug overdose deaths, dashing hopes that the province was beginning to win the battle against the fentanyl epidemic.

Numbers released by the BC Coroners Service Thursday linked 161 fatalities to illicit drug overdoses-a 24 per cent increase over March 2017 and a 58 per cent increase over February of this year.

The number of deaths for the first three months of this year is about the same as the 400 reported for the same period in 2017, the coroner said.

The March 2018 total nearly equals the 162 illicit drug overdose deaths in December 2016.

Three of last month's deaths occurred in Northeast B.C., while eight occurred in the Northern Interior, and the Northwest region recorded its first fatal overdose of the year.

"Seven in every 10 of those who died were aged 19 to 49 years".

Most recently, the government introduced legislation cracking down on pill presses-machines that can be used to make illicit drugs.

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The majority of decedents died indoors (90.5%).

"We are escalating our response every single day, every single week, every single month and we will continue to until we turn the tide on this bad crisis", she said.

28 of those deaths happened on Vancouver Island.

Vancouver had 102 suspected overdose deaths in the first three months of 2018, an average of 34 per month, which is up from the 2017 average of 30.5 per month, the coroner said.

The overdose death rate in Northern B.C. surged in March after trailing the rest of the province.

The coroner's service replicated its deadline for those taking illegal drugs to not use independently.

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