(File photo)

(File photo)

2017 opioid deaths on pace to hit 4,000, illicit fentanyl a major culprit: PHAC

TORONTO — The Public Health Agency of Canada says at least 1,460 people died from opioid-related overdoses in the first half of this year.

And that number is expected to rise as additional data becomes available from the provinces and territories.

The federal agency expects the number of lives lost due to opioid-related overdoses in 2017 will surpass last year’s figure of 2,861.

PHAC says that if current trends continue, opioid-related deaths could surpass 4,000 by the end of the year.

All regions of Canada have been affected, but some have been harder hit than others. The western provinces and territories continue to report higher rates of opioid-related deaths.

The data also indicate that illicit fentanyl has played a major role in the crisis, with 74 per cent of deaths involving the opioid, compared to 53 per cent last year.