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British Columbia’s death rate from illicit drug overdoses has spiked with the coroner recording 161 deaths in March.

The figure is the second-highest toll behind the 162 deaths that were recorded in December 2016.

Preliminary data show the powerful painkiller fentanyl was detected in 83 per cent of the deaths in the first three months of this year.

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The coroner’s service says in a news release that over 90 per cent of the 391 overdose deaths recorded in the first three months of 2018 happened indoors and no deaths were recorded at supervised consumption sites.

The B.C. government declared a public health emergency over the crisis two years ago, but the death toll hasn’t abated.

The coroner says more than 1,400 residents died from suspected illicit drug overdoses last 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.

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 coroner’s service repeated its reminder for those taking illicit drugs not to use alone.

“Those using substances should have someone nearby equipped and trained to administer naloxone or able to call 911 immediately if an overdose occurs,” it said in the release.

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