A new report is offering some clues about a disturbing trend in the county.
Officials with the county medical examiner's office are concerned about the rising number of people who die accidentally after using oxycodone, a painkiller found in such medications as OxyContin.
"These prescription narcotics have different names: Oxycontin, Percocet and Percodan, but they share a powerful ingredient that gives users a long-lasting euphoria ... and very risky side-effects," Deputy Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas said Monday.
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. research 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," Lucas said. "That's three times what it was from 2004 to 2006. Oxycodone-related deaths surpassed cocaine-related deaths for the first time this year, and only alcohol-, methamphetamine- and heroin-related deaths were more common."
Of the approximately 22,000 people who died in the county in 2008, about half of those deaths were investigated by the M.E.'s office. Roughly 3,000 of those cases were brought in for further examination, and those are the cases covered in the report.