San Diego

Drugs, Car Accidents and Suicide Led San Diego County Deaths Investigated by Medical Examiner in 2018

In 2018, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office lead full investigations into the deaths of 3,232 people in San Diego County

Drug use, drinking and car accidents continue to be the leading causes of deaths investigated by the San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office, according to a report released Monday.

The ME's 2018 Annual Report gives insight into the causes of death for thousands of San Diegans and reveals an increase in suicides, fentanyl and methamphetamine overdoses, as well as a large gender difference.

Men accounted for more than double of the deaths investigated in San Diego County last year: 2,196 men compared to 1,034 women.

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“Every case represents a person’s death, mourned by loved ones and friends,” said County Medical Examiner Dr. Glenn Wagner.

According to the report, more than 22,000 deaths occurred in the county last year. Of that figure, the Medical Examiner’s Office was asked to investigate 8,346. From those investigations, 5,115 deaths were determined natural and needed no further investigation. This left the ME's Office to launch full investigations into the remaining 3,232 deaths.

The report said the three leading causes of accidental and sudden deaths were drugs, falls, or car accidents.

Overdoses were linked to 577 deaths involving illegal drugs, misused prescription drugs and alcohol. There were 92 fentanyl deaths in the county in 2018.

Accidental falls accounted for 488 deaths in 2018. Those fatal falls happened inside homes but also out in nature, on bridges, mountains and beach cliffs.

Per the report, 316 people were killing by being hit by car or in a car accident. This stat included 107 pedestrians, the highest number of pedestrian deaths in San Diego County in 24 years, the ME's report said.

Firearm deaths totaled 235 people: 61 in homicides and 174 in suicides.

"Suicide remains a significant issue in our communities," said Dr. Luke Bergmann, director of Behavioral Health Services for the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency.

"But suicide can be prevented if we know the signs, find the words to talk openly about suicide and reach out for resources and support," Bergmann added.

The current 2019 year cannot be analyzed fully yet in an ME report of this kind but the first quarter of 2019 showed a 16 percent increase in suicides: 98 versus 114 compared to the first quarter of 2018.

This matches the trend of increased suicides over the past 10 years, taking population growth into account, according to the ME's Office.

If you or someone you know needs help call the Access & Crisis Line at 888-724-7240 (7 days a week/24 hrs a day and multiple languages available).

Read the full press release here. To find past reports click here.

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