10/20/2016 04:03 EDT

B.C. Has Seen Over 550 Deadly Overdoses In 9 Months

VANCOUVER — The number of illicit drug deaths in British Columbia surpassed last year's death toll after just nine months.

The Ministry of Public Safety says in the first nine months of this year there were 555 deaths because of illicit drug overdoses, compared with 508 for all of 2015.

The ministry says fentanyl remains the major contributor to the high number of deaths and in more than 60 per cent of them, the drug was detected.


Fentanyl has played a part in over half of B.C.'s deadly overdoses in 2016. (Photo: Getty)

The coroner's service is urging users to take harm reduction measures, including never using alone and having naloxone ready to counteract an overdose if necessary.

The B.C. government declared a public health emergency earlier this year, describing the number of deaths as alarming.

The province formed a joint task force involving the provincial health officer and the director of police services to prevent and respond to overdoses.

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