March drug deaths down 11% over last year as B.C. records 192 fatalities

Another 192 people were killed in British Columbia by illicit drugs in March, 11 per cent down from the same month last year.

The BC Coroners Service says the relentless toll makes illicit drugs the leading cause of death for those aged between 10 and 59, surpassing accidents, suicide, homicides and natural causes combined.

At least 572 people died in the first three months of this year, and fentanyl has been detected in 85 per cent of the unregulated drug deaths that have undergone toxicology testing.

Click to play video: 'B.C. moves to ban drug use in public spaces after concerns over pilot program'

B.C. moves to ban drug use in public spaces after concerns over pilot program

About three-quarters of those killed in March were male, although the service says the death rate among females is climbing year-over-year, with 23 deaths per 100,000 compared with just over 20 last year.

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The death toll was released on the same day federal Mental Health and Addictions Minister Ya’ara Saks announced approval of the request by B.C. to prohibit the use of illicit drugs in most public spaces once again.

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Jennifer Whiteside, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions, says the losses underscore the urgency of continuing to respond to the public health emergency.

At least 14,400 people have died since the provincial government declared a public health emergency in April 2016.

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