Madison County Coroner Stephen P. Nonn is reporting the preliminary end-of-year summary statistics of operations during the 2018 calendar year. Overall, the number of reports taken by the coroner’s office increased compared to 2017, but most alarming was the year ending with a tragic, record breaking number of deaths due to directly – or closely attributable to – drug and substance abuse.
While calendar year 2017 ended with 87 drug deaths, the Madison County Coroner’s Office has recorded 109 drug related deaths in 2018, surpassing the 2014 high mark of 91. Noticeably absent from the drug death statistics were deaths due to intoxication or overdose of heroin alone as the principal and sole toxin involved in the death. The deaths this year predominantly featured “cocktails” of substances of abuse.
“Fentanyl and its analogs has replaced heroin both here at home and nationwide”, said Coroner Nonn. “It’s ease of manufacture and delivery makes it more appealing than dealing in conventional opiate derivative narcotics”, he added. Nonn stated that the toxicology reports indicated drugs, either singularly or in combination with others such as cocaine, methadone, and methamphetamine. Prescription drug abuse overdoses are still seen as well.
Nonn further stated that 109 is not a fixed number yet and this number reflects accidental as well as intentional, suicidal overdosage. “We still have a number of deaths where analysis is pending. “Although we can develop suspicions of drug abuse from history and scene investigation, we still come across cases where drug results come in that were not expected”, Nonn said.
In overall agency operations during 2018, the Madison County Coroner’s Office generated reports on 2,714 cases compared to 2,677 reports in 2017. Of the 2,714 death reports taken, 2,216 inquiries resulted in the case being cleared as a natural, medical event and the decedent’s personal physician could certify the death certificate.
Coroner’s investigations with subsequent issuance of the death certificate by Coroner Nonn was present in 461 cases. These cases categorized by the manner of death are:
Natural Causes: 193
Pending cases: 52
It is noted that these statistics reflect only those individuals who perished in a Madison County locale. Madison County incidents in which the decedent expired at a St. Louis hospital are not reflected in these numbers and these numbers are subject to revision as pending death investigations are resolved and reclassified.
The remaining 37 miscellaneous case reports reflect assistance to other law enforcement agencies, death notifications for out of area police and coroners, cases that are determined to be non-human bones and remains, and other assistance provided to area coroners.
“The bottom line to the year 2018 is that drugs continue to be a scourge and plague on the people of Madison County bringing a tremendous amount of grief to people who are left behind in the wake of an addiction that ends for some only with death”, Nonn concluded.