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Death toll reaches almost four a day in B.C.’s overdose crisis: coroner

A man prepares to inject himself with heroin in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver on Oct. 25, 2016.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Nearly four people died every day last month from an illicit drug overdose in British Columbia.

Data from the BC Coroners Service says 120 people died in March, the third-highest death toll for a single month on record in the province.

Almost 83 per cent of the victims in the first three months of this year were men, and those between the ages of 30 and 49 accounted for the highest number of dead.

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Chief coroner Lisa Lapointe says the powerful opioid fentanyl appears to account for the large increase in overdose deaths since 2012, because overdoses where fentanyl isn't detected have remained relatively stable.

Lapointe says while harm reduction measures are reversing thousands of overdoses, long-term measures to stem the tide must include education at an early age and evidence-based treatment.

The coroner is part of the B.C. government's joint task force on overdose response along with other health, community and law enforcement agencies formed after the declaration of a health emergency last year.

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