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Coroner confirms fentanyl linked to deaths of young North Vancouver couple

Vancouver Sun logo Vancouver Sun 2015-07-30 TIFFANY CRAWFORD
Overdose © Vancouver Sun Overdose

METRO VANCOUVER - The B.C. Coroners Service has confirmed the deaths of a North Vancouver couple earlier this month are linked to fentanyl, a powerful but deadly synthetic opiate.

Hardy and Amelia Leighton, both in their early 30s, were found dead in their North Vancouver home on July 20. The coroner said investigators believed at the time that the deaths may be linked to the use of drugs.

The couple leaves behind a two-year-old son. A donation page has been set up to help the orphaned child at youcaring.com

Toxicology testing confirmed that the pair had ingested toxic levels of fentanyl in combination with other drugs.

The B.C. Coroners Service continues to investigate these deaths.

The deaths have sparked renewed warnings by the coroner, police forces and health authorities about the danger of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid which is much more toxic than morphine and is particularly dangerous to those who are naive opioid users, according to the coroner.

In some cases users have ingested fentanyl believing they had been sold other illicit drugs such as oxycodone, cocaine or ecstasy.

Over the past three years the percentage of drug overdose deaths in which fentanyl is detected has risen to more than 25 per cent, the coroner said Wednesday. In more than 80 per cent of those cases, the cause of death was a mixed drug overdose, with fentanyl being just one of the components.

The total number of illicit drugs deaths in B.C. for 2014 was 355, an increase of 7.5 per cent from the previous year.

ticrawford@vancouversun.com

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