Metro-East News

Madison County sets record for drug-overdose deaths in 2018

Madison County set a record-breaking 109 drug-related deaths in 2018, according to the annual coroner’s report, which issued a warning about the growing presence of fentanyl in the area.

In a news release, Coroner Stephen P. Nonn said he was “alarmed by the number of tragic deaths” in the county that were caused by, or at least closely attributable to, drug abuse. Those 109 deaths eclipsed the 87 drug deaths Nonn was called to in 2017 and surpassed the previous high of 91 set in 2014.

Most of the overdose deaths featured “cocktails” of substances, rather than just the presence of heroin, which was a major factor in overdoses in years past.

“Fentanyl and its analogs has replaced heroin both here at home and nationwide,” Nonn wrote. “Its ease of manufacture and delivery makes it more appealing than dealing in conventional opiate derivative narcotics.”

Other drugs indicated in toxicology reports from Madison County included cocaine, methadone and methamphetamine. Prescription drug abuse overdoses were present as well, the report stated.

Overall, Nonn was called to 2,714 cases, most of those natural deaths. Of that number, 37 deaths are still being investigated. There were nine homicides in the county in 2018, the same number as the year before.

Madison County Coroner Steve Nonn. Provided/BND

For at least one metro-east county, however, drug-related deaths saw a significant decrease.

Clinton County Coroner Phillip Moss said that he only responded to two overdose deaths in 2018, which was “extremely low” for his community of less than 38,000. Moss said he typically sees at least 12 overdose deaths a year.

St. Clair County had 54 drug-related deaths in 2018.

According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, Americans are now more likely to die of an opioid overdose than in a motor vehicle accident. The growing number of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. has become a national issue, with President Donald Trump declaring the crisis a national public health emergency in 2017.

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Hana Muslic has been a public safety reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat since August 2018, covering everything from crime and courts to accidents, fires and natural disasters. She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s College of Journalism and her previous work can be found in The Lincoln Journal-Star and The Kansas City Star.