(Victoria Buzz stock photo)

The BC Coroners Service has reported a spike in drug overdose deaths in the month of March 2020.

In a report released on Thursday, the Coroners Services says there were 113 suspected illicit drug overdose deaths in March, which represents a 61 per cent increase compared to February.

A similar surge in drug overdose deaths was last seen in March 2019, when there were 117 deaths recorded in one month.

The majority of people who died in March 2020 were aged 19 to 49 years old. As in previous months, the regions that experienced the most number of deaths were Vancouver, Surrey, and Victoria.

Fentanyl and analogues were detected in 82.7 per cent of suspected illicit drug overdose deaths.

In Victoria, 18 people died of drug overdose in March 2020, while a total of 38 people died for similar reasons in the Island Health region.

(BC Coroners Service)

Before March, deaths related to drug overdose were on the decline in B.C. as the Coroners Service report in February showed a 36 per cent reduction in the number of people who died by overdose in 2019 compared to 2018.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health officials have expressed concern about how this most recent public health emergency will compound the existing opioid crisis in the province, and lead to a major spike in overdose deaths.

Provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry has long advocated for the establishment of harm-reduction measures like safe consumption sites, and naloxone training and availability.

“We’re dealing with addiction. And addiction is an illness, a health condition. We are in no way out of this crisis yet,” said Dr. Henry in a statement back in February.

The province is working on strategies support people dealing with both the opioid overdose and COVID-19 crises.

A safe supply of drugs will be available to people from homeless encampments who are now being sheltered at hotels and emergency shelter sites secured by BC Housing.

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