Suicide, drugs overdose reach record levels


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SAN DIEGO – The number of suicides logged by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office was the highest on record last year, with 441 people killing themselves, according to a report released Tuesday.

For the third year in a row, suicides and prescription drug overdose continue to be the leading causes of death in cases investigated by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. Suicides made up about 15 percent of the nearly 3,000 deaths investigated by the Medical Examiner’s Office in 2013.

Accidental methamphetamine overdoses were implicated in 190 deaths, the highest number since 2000, the report said. Prescription drug overdoses were the most common cause of accidental deaths, followed by alcohol and heroin.

coroner's officer, Medical Examiner, dead body, homicide investigationAccording to the report, most heroin related deaths were among people in their 20s.

Drug overdose falls into the category of accidental deaths.

“It can be a very subtle thing. All of a sudden you are taking two instead of the one prescribed, you are upping those doses and you are not aware of it,” said Nancy Knott, Interventionist and Treatment Counselor at Scripps Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center. “People are falling into it and then they can’t get out. The problem with this is these drugs are absolutely all over the streets.”

According to the report, 45 percent of the investigated deaths last year were accidental, 36 percent were deemed natural, 15 percent were suicides and 3.3 percent were homicides, the report said. In 1.3 percent, the manner of death could not be determined.

“One of the main reasons our office compiles this report is to help identify patterns and trends for various deaths, many of which are preventable,” Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas said. “This data is useful to identify issues that may need additional resources. The data may also show whether prevention education efforts are working to address previously identified problems.”

Cardiovascular disease was the leading cause of natural deaths, with obesity listed as a major risk factor, the report said.

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