Medical Examiner: Drug-Related Deaths Up 85 Percent Over Decade
The San Diego County Medical Examiner says heart disease was the number one cause of death last year. Accidental deaths from both illegal and prescription drugs was number two.
County officials say 443 San Diegans had accidental drug-related deaths in 2009. When you add up all drug-related deaths, including those from intentional overdoses and alcohol abuse, the number jumps to 660.
Deputy Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas says these figures don't tell the whole story.
"We see only the deaths," Lucas points out. "We don't see the ER visits, we don't see the people that are chronically abusing their medications, you know, and then don't die. We only see the tip of the iceberg."
Dr. Lucas says drug-related deaths in the county have increased 85 percent over the last 10 years. He says misuse of prescription pain relievers are the biggest drivers of the trend.
From City News Service...
Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of death in autopsies performed by the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office last year, followed closely by drug-and medication-related deaths, officials said today.
The Medical Examiner's Office did 2,707 autopsies in 2009.
Cardiovascular disease accounted for 592 cases, and drug-and medication-related deaths totaled 443, according to the Medical Examiner's Office.
"The number of drug-related deaths continues to rise, and it's not just illegal drugs but also prescription medications that are involved," said Chief Medical Examiner Glenn Wagner.
According to Wagner, drug-related deaths have increased 85 percent over the past 10 years.
The third leading cause of death was suicide, with 377 cases, followed by falls, at 374 cases, and motor vehicle crashes at 284 cases.
Drug-and alcohol-related deaths have been the leading cause of non-natural deaths since 2003, according to the Medical Examiner's Office. There were 132 alcohol-related deaths investigated by the Medical Examiner's Office last year.
Suicides have been on the rise since 2007, increasing 20 percent since 2006, officials said.
However, deaths related to motor vehicles were at a 10-year low last year, according to the Medical Examiner's Office. Homicides were also down in 2009, with 109 reported countywide.
About half of the deaths in the county are reported to the Medical Examiner's Office, or about 11,000 each year. About 3,000 deaths lead to investigations.