Drug-related deaths continue to be a plague locally.
Although tests remain pending in some cases, it is believed that 77 people lost their lives last year in Madison County due to the scourge of drug abuse, according to the coroner’s office.
“This year’s statistics almost presents itself in a good news/bad news fashion,” said Madison County Coroner Stephen Nonn. “The good news being that the total number of drug deaths are down from 92 in 2014. The bad news being that heroin deaths are up to a suspected 43 in 2015 from 26 in 2014.”
Nonn noted that the statistics reflects only those who died within the geographic boundaries of Madison County. Local residents who might have passed away at hospitals outside the county are not included.
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As of Dec. 31, 2015, the breakdown of drug-related death investigations undertaken by the Madison County Coroner’s Office include:
▪ Heroin overdose (confirmed): 38
▪ Suspected heroin (cases pending): 5
▪ Fentanyl overdose: 7
▪ Prescription medication (confirmed): 11
▪ Suspected prescription (pending): 8
“It is — to say the least — disappointing to see the heroin numbers rising as they did,” Nonn said. “However, the numbers only parallel what is being seen nationally.”
Nonn’s office also still has one pending overdose case where synthetic drugs are expected to be the culprit and two pending alcohol poisoning cases.
There were five other deaths investigated that resulted from complications of drug abuse/usage. Those cases included:
▪ a drowning due to methamphetamine intoxication;
▪ positional asphyxia due to alprazolam and ethanol intoxication;
▪ cardiac tamponade due to prolonged methamphetamine use
▪ drowning/hypothermia due to opiate use (probable Heroin); and
▪ a case of hypertensive cardiovascular disease exacerbated by methadone.
“The statistics are certainly sobering,” said Highland Police Lt. Chris Conrad. “We’re glad that Coroner Nonn and State’s Attorney (Tom) Gibbons have stepped up so strongly with programs that not only educate but also have an impact on the audience. The drugs being sold today, and heroin in particular, are more pure and more potent than anything we’ve ever seen before as a society. The fact that some of these drugs are so pure and so potent that an individual can become chemically and physically dependent after one dose is scary as hell.”
Nonn said local law enforcement will continue with drug take-back days, as well as school presentations, to try and combat this growing problem.
“Hopefully, we can plant seeds today that will bear fruit tomorrow,” he said.
Lt. Conrad echoed those sentiments.
“Teenagers and young adults are going to make poor decisions, it’s what they do, and it’s how they learn to become responsible adults,” he said. “As a parent, it scares me to death to know that because of the potency of the drugs on the street that if a kid makes the immature choice to experiment with a drug only once, they can suffer severe lifetime consequences. When I was a kid the anti-drug slogan from Nancy Reagan was ‘Just say no!’ Today, the slogan from every parent should be. ‘Not even once!’”
Conrad said he has seen the impact addiction has on everyone — from individuals and their families, to the community as a whole — as addicts try to feed and maintain their addictions.
“It is difficult to watch families deal with the lies, fights, deceit, and theft that comes with addiction, and know that they care but are helpless as they watch their loved ones waste away,” he said. “I had a parent call it human wasting disease, and I think they were spot on. If you are a parent of a child 10 years or older, you need to be having this conversation with your kids right now.”
Madison County Coroner’s Office 2015 Caseload
The Madison County Coroner’s Office generated reports on 2,635 cases, of which 2,207 resulted in the case being cleared as an anticipated death or where the decedent’s physician could certify the death as a natural, medical event.
Coroner’s investigations with subsequent issuance of the death certificate by Coroner Steve Nonn was present in 349 cases. These cases categorized by the manner of death are:
▪ Natural Causes: 152
▪ Accident: 124
▪ Suicide: 33
▪ Homicide: 4
▪ Pending cases: 36
The remaining 79 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.