VICTORIA - Nurse practitioners in British Columbia now have the power to prescribe drugs used to treat opioid addiction.

The provincial government says the College of Registered Nurses of B.C. has expanded its standards so nurse practitioners can prescribe medication like injectable hydromorphone, methadone and suboxone.

Cynthia Johansen, the college's registrar and CEO, says the change will help nurse practitioners to better meet the increasing demand for opioid substitution treatment.

More than 1,422 people died of illicit drug overdoses across B.C. last year.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy says the change to prescribing standards will help address gaps and tackle barriers that people living with addiction often experience.

Nurse practitioners who want to prescribe the medication have to undergo training with the B.C. Centre on Substance Use, and the province says more than 60 nurses have started the program so far.

The Ministry of Mental Health and Addiction says in a news release the possibility of allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe prescription heroin is being looked at.