Overdose deaths top last year’s numbers

LISBON – The number of drug-related deaths so far this year in Columbiana County exceeds those for all of 2012.

County Coroner Dr. William Graham Jr. recently issued his office’s report for 2012 that noted there were 16 accidental drug overdose deaths for all of last year. There have been 18 confirmed overdose deaths in 2013 as of Aug. 13, according to Chief Deputy Coroner Brandi Phillips.

This is far from the record of 69 overdose deaths reached in 2007, which was followed by 67 such deaths the following year, after which the number returned to normal levels over the next four years. The coroner’s office has been compiling overdose records since 1989.

Following is the hometown of the people who died from drug overdoses: East Liverpool and Salem, 4 each; Wellsville, 2; and one each from New Waterford, Columbiana, Lisbon, Boardman, Chester, W.Va., and Hookstown, Pa.

Morphine, heroin, enzodiazepines, hydroconcodone and cocaine were the drugs most commonly found in the systems of those 16 people whose deaths were ruled to be the result of a drug overdose. The majority of these people – nine -were in their 30s.

Drug overdose deaths ranged from only three to seven per year in the 1990s before they began a steady increase in the 2000s, topping out in 2007 and 2008. Drug overdoses have surpassed traffic crashes as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Ohio and several other states.

The overdose deaths were among 116 questionable deaths investigated by the coroner’s office in 2012, of which 52 were attributed to natural causes and 37 to accidents. Of those accidental deaths, there were the 16 drug overdoses, while another 10 were from traffic accidents.

Another six deaths in 2012 were determined to be homicides, up from just two in 2011 and the highest since six homicides occurred in 2008. There were no homicides in 2009, the first time that had occurred since 1991. The record for most homicides in a year over the past 50 years was 10 in 1979.

Approximately 18 suicide deaths occurred last year, 10 of which were by gunshot. The other methods were hanging (3), carbon monoxide poisoning (1), intentional drug overdose (2), jumping from a bridge (1), and smoke inhalation (1). The record for suicides was 21 in 2008.

The cause of death in two of the 116 cases investigated by the coroner was listed as undetermined.