COCAINE OVERTAKING HEROIN AS TOP KILLER Cocaine is B.C.'s new killer drug. Deaths from cocaine use this year are set to reach 200, according to Dr. Stuart Huckin of the Provincial Toxicology Centre. For the first time, cocaine deaths will exceed heroin deaths. "This year, cocaine will become the leading cause of death among illicit drugs," Huckin said yesterday. Dr. John Blatherwick, chief medical officer for the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority, confirmed that over the past five years the number of cocaine-related deaths has come close to exceeding the number of heroin-related deaths which peaked around 1993-94. "We've been seeing cocaine [use] take over from heroin for almost five years -- there is no question it is the predominant drug," Blatherwick told The Province last night. "I'm surprised it's been this long to get the death toll to overtake it as well." But Blatherwick noted many drug deaths are not straightforward. He said drug cocktails washed down by alcohol are often the killers. "There are very few pure deaths. Almost every death is a mixture of drugs and, in the vast majority, alcohol plays a role," said Blatherwick. "The drug overcomes the respiratory system and usually it is the alcohol on top of that that sedates them enough that they just can't kick out of it. "They just put the person into a slow [comatose state] and friends don't recognize -- particularly when combined with alcohol -- that the person has stopped breathing." Blatherwick added many people who overdose on heroin are resuscitated, while it's not easy to revive coke overdoses. "The thing with a heroin overdose is we have Narcan," Blatherwick said of the drug that restarts hearts. "We can usually resuscitate people, but with a cocaine overdose there isn't a lot we can do."