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New Statistics Reveal Concerning Death Trend

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June 8, 2009

A new report offers some clues about a disturbing trend in the county – the rising number of people who die accidentally after using oxycodone, a painkiller found in various medications such as OxyContin.

The County of San Diego Medical Examiner’s office recently released its 2008 statistics, outlining the causes of death among the cases that it sees.

About 22,000 people die in the county every year, and about half of those deaths are investigated by the Medical Examiner’s office. Approximately 3,000 of those cases are brought in for further examination, and those are the cases covered in the report.

Drug and medication related accidents are among the top causes of death.

Deputy Medical Examiner, Jonathan Lucas, MD, has focused on these cases over the years to get more detail and has found that accidental deaths involving oxycodone are on the rise.

“We saw a sharp increase in oxycodone-related accidental deaths in 2007 and 2008, with 51 cases in the past year. That’s three times what it was from 2004 to 2006,” said Lucas.

“Oxycodone-related deaths surpassed cocaine-related deaths for the first time this year, and only alcohol, methamphetamine and heroin-related deaths were more common.”

The findings provide valuable insight to local law enforcement, such as the Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney, and are also shared with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Justice to help officials target the problem.

County Medical Examiner's Top Five Causes of Death
. Cardiovascular
2. Drug/Medication Related
3. Fall
4. Motor Vehicle
5. Firearm

Complete Medical Examiner 2008 Statistics

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