EDWARDSVILLE — Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn reports that drug overdose deaths in Madison County are on the rise and have kept his investigators busy throughout the year.
The increase reflects a national trend of prescription drug overdose deaths.
Nonn said in 2013 there were 54 overdose deaths. Of those, 22 were heroin overdoses. Heroin deaths remain steady at about the same pace as the past three years, averaging 20-plus deaths each year.
“In 2014 we currently stand at 101 overdose deaths,” Nonn said in a press release. “Of those, 22 are pending prescription drug overdose cases and there are four that are pending suspected heroin overdoses. Please keep in mind that of the 22 pending prescriptions, some might end up being natural causes if the toxicology is negative for drugs, but the circumstances surrounding the death make us suspicious that drugs played a role. We are still awaiting toxicology results on those cases,” Nonn said.
As of Dec. 31, 2014, the Coroner’s Office reported the following statistics:
- Confirmed heroin deaths: 22
- Confirmed prescription drug overdoses: 41 (pain medications such as hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl and sometimes in combination with anti-depressants such as Xanax and Fluoxetine)
- Confirmed ethanol intoxication: four
- Confirmed huffing: one (inhaling air duster cans)
- Confirmed other illicit drugs: seven (cocaine, methamphetamine)
The above statistics reflects the 75 confirmed drug overdose deaths in Madison County in 2014; the Coroner’s Office still has 22 suspected cases of prescription drug overdose cases waiting on toxicology results, as well as four cases of suspected heroin deaths. If all pending cases come back positive, the Coroner’s Office will have had a total of 101 overdose deaths in 2014, an astounding increase of 47 deaths as compared to last year.
Nonn reported that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has officially declared that prescription drug abuse in the United States is an epidemic. The following are statistics provided by the CDC:
Deaths from drug overdoses have been rising steadily over the past two decades and have become the leading cause of injury death in the United States. Every day in the United States, 114 people die as a result of drug overdose, and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Nearly nine out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.
The problem — as outlined by the Centers for Disease Control
Drug overdose was the leading cause of injury death in 2012. Among people age 25 to 64, drug overdose caused more deaths than motor vehicle traffic crashes.
Drug overdose death rates have been rising steadily since 1992 with a 117 percent increase from 1999 to 2012 alone.
In 2012, 33,175 (79.9 percent) of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States were unintentional, 5,465 (13.2 percent) were of suicidal intent, 80 (0.2 percent) were homicides, and 2,782 (6.7 percent) were of undetermined intent.
In 2011, drug misuse and abuse caused about 2.5 million emergency department visits. Of these, more than 1.4 million ED visits were related to pharmaceuticals.
Between 2004 and 2005, an estimated 71,000 children (18 or younger) were seen in emergency departments each year because of medication overdose (excluding self-harm, abuse and recreational drug use).
Eighty percent of heroin users started out as prescription drug abusers and turned to heroin because it is cheaper, and in most cases, were not aware of the highly addictive nature of the drug.
Most common drugs involved in overdoses
In 2012, of the 41,502 drug overdose deaths in the United States, 22,114 (53 percent) were related to pharmaceuticals.
Of the 22,114 deaths relating to pharmaceutical overdose in 2012, 16,007 (72 percent) involved opioid analgesics (also called opioid pain relievers or prescription painkillers), and 6,524 (30 percent) involved benzodiazepines. (Some deaths include more than one type of drug.)
In 2011, about 1.4 million emergency department visits involved the nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals. Among those ED visits, 501,207 visits were related to anti-anxiety and insomnia medications, and 420,040 visits were related to opioid analgesics.
Benzodiazepines are frequently found among people treated in emergency departments for misusing or abusing drugs. People who died of drug overdoses often had a combination of benzodiazepines and opioid analgesics in their bodies.
Two hundred fifty-nine million prescriptions for painkillers were written by health care providers in 2012, enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.
Nonn said he has been proud to be at the forefront of bringing this plague to the public eye and initiate action within the law enforcement community, starting with a law enforcement training program in conjunction with the DEA in March 2011. Since then, the Coroner’s Office, in conjunction with the Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Madison County Sheriff’s Department, has been active in prescription drug takeback programs, which have been effective in taking unused prescription medicines out of homes and off the streets. The Coroner’s Office also is involved in drug prevention programs such as Project Drug Smart and with local law enforcement in presenting drug prevention programs to middle school and high schools. It is estimated that more than 10,000 students have been spoken to on the topic of drug prevention since the beginning of Project Drug Smart in October 2011.
“We are working together with federal, state and local law enforcement in aggressive criminal enforcement against drug dealers and also targeting medical professionals who have become purveyors of pill mills for drug addicts,” Nonn said.
Madison County homicide statistics
Homicides in Madison County totaled 12 this year and the below statistics show a three-year comparison of numbers and geographical locations:
2014 homicides: 12
- Marjorie Phillips, 71, died Jan. 1 in Alton of neglect
- Andrew Birch, 23, died Feb. 23 of gunshot wound in Maryville (died at Anderson Hospital, shooting occurred in Collinsville)
- Travis Mayes, 43, died May 18 of gunshot wound in Granite City
- Kenneth Deal, 43, died May 19 of gunshot wound in Granite City (died at Gateway Regional Medical Center, shooting occurred in Madison)
- Stephen Minch, 45, died July 9 of gunshot wound in Granite City
- Malik Garrett, 16, died July 11 of gunshot wound in Granite City (died at Gateway Regional Medical Center, shooting occurred in Madison)
- Dorse McKinnon, 91, died July 23 of closed head injury in Edwardsville (incident occurred at Granite City nursing home)
- Woodrow Dilday, 82, died July 10 of blunt trauma in Granite City
- Melvin Hayes, 39, died Sept. 6 of gunshot wound in Alton
- Sheila Hodges, 32, died Nov. 10 of gunshot wound in Fairmont City
- Jermell Lovett, 29, died Oct. 16 of gunshot wound in Venice
- Calvin Tally, 41, died Dec. 29 of gunshot wound in Granite City (died at Gateway Regional Medical Center, shooting occurred in Venice)
Madison County had 11 homicides in 2013 and eight homicides in 2012.
The three-year total for all cases handled by the Coroner’s Office continues to increase each year:
- 2011: 2,322 cases
- 2012: 2,427 cases
- 2013: 2,574 cases
- 2014: 2,704 cases