There have been more illicit drug deaths over the first nine months of this year in British Columbia than there were in all of 2015, according to statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service.

A total of 508 people died last year from drug overdoses in B.C.

Between January 1 and September 30 of this year, there were 555 deaths.

B.C. Coroners Service spokeswoman Barb McLintock says fentanyl has been detected in more than 60 per cent of illicit drug deaths this year.

"Fentanyl remains a major contributor to the high number of deaths," McLintock said.

"January 1 through August 31, 2016, there were a total of 302 cases in which fentanyl was detected. That number is more than triple the number of fentanyl-detected deaths for the same period last year."

Growing problem

Kamloops, Victoria and Langley have seen the sharpest increases in overdose deaths.

In Kamloops, the number has risen from seven last year to 25 in the first nine months of 2016.

Victoria's total has jumped from 18 to 44 over the same period and Langley's total has risen from 10 to 20.

The majority of victims are men under the age of 40.

More than a third of this year's fatal overdoses (195) have happened in the Fraser Health region.

The Fraser Health Authority launched a harm reduction strategy earlier this month in partnership with RainCity Housing in response to the crisis.

Government response

The B.C. government says it has taken several steps to address the problem, including the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone Program.

The province says nearly 15,000 take-home naloxone kits have been distributed and police departments across B.C. are hosting community forums on fentanyl.

"Many individuals and families struggling with addiction continue to face enormous barriers to effective care," B.C. Centre on Substance Use interim director Evan Wood and B.C. Recovery Council chair Marshall Smith said in a joint statement.

"To address this challenge, the province has taken several immediate steps, including improved sharing of data among health authorities, emergency room staff, first responders and the B.C. Coroners Service and providing naloxone kits free of charge to high risk populations."

However, Premier Christy Clark has been criticized for not being on track to meet her promise to add 500 new addiction treatment spaces in B.C. by 2017.