Despite a public health emergency declared earlier this year, fatal drug overdoses in British Columbia are increasing at an alarming rate.
B.C. Coroner’s Office statistics released Wednesday show 371 people overdosed in the first six months of 2016.
That’s a 74 per cent jump over the same period last year.
Officials cite the increased use of fentanyl as the main culprit.
The synthetic opiod analgesic is being smuggled in from Mexico and China and is estimated to have 50 times the potency of pure, pharmacy-grade heroin and 100 times the potency of morphine.
The Coroner’s Office says toxicology tests show fentanyl was detected in about 60 per cent of the deaths, either on its own or with another drug.
That’s a rise of 31 per cent since 2015.
The fatal overdoses have been spread across the province with the Fraser Valley registering the highest count with 114 deaths so far this year.
In the southern Interior and on Vancouver Island, the death toll has already exceeded all of last year.
Drug investigators say Mexican cartels have added fentanyl to heroin smuggled into the United States and Canada.
They also say Chinese suppliers are providing both raw fentanyl and the machinery necessary for the assembly-line production of the drug, powering the rapid rise of its use, which officials fear will spread across Canada.
For reasons beyond our control, and for an undetermined period of time, our comment section is now closed. However, our social networks remain open to your contributions.