Report: More Pima County residents die from drugs than car wrecks

Report: More Pima County residents die from drugs than car wrecks

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - More people in Pima County died last year from drug overdoses than car accidents, according to a recent annual report released from the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner-Forensic Science Center.

Of the 8,630 people who died in Pima County in 2014, 2,520 were examined by the Office of the Medical Examiner.

Nearly 40 percent of them died from accidents, including death from falls, car accidents and illegal drug use. 20 percent of deaths were a result of homicide or suicide.

Although the number of people who died from drug overdose was roughly the same as the year prior, the number of heroin overdoses more than doubled since 2012, from 36 people to 77 in 2014.

Meth overdoses, however, dropped significantly each year.

Law enforcement said that a crackdown on prescription medications has likely led to an increase in heroin use.

Similarly, when one drug becomes cheaper and more available, the number of deaths from that drug will generally spike.

As more agencies work to stop meth drug abuse or oxycontin abuse, it becomes more scarce and expensive, and other drugs will likely take its place, which is why heroin has spiked.

"Over the past few years, we've seen a great increase in prescription overdoses, most of them accidental, some of them suicide," says Dr. Gregory Hess, the county medical examiner. "But in the pasts year, the number was overtaken by heroin use."

The past few years have seen an upsurge in police efforts to cut prescription drug abuse and those efforts have paid off. .

Evidenced by the fact that now an oxycodone pill may cost $30 on the street whereas heroin may cost as little as $6.

"In the past year, it means heroin was prevalent and I imagine it was cost effective for people to use," Hess says.

It can be compared to squeezing a balloon, officials said.

The number of people killed in car accidents continues to decline. This could be because tougher laws are being enforced against intoxicated drivers, as well as public education campaign work. The number of homicides has dropped from 88 to 62.

"Homicides go up and down and could go up again next year," Hess says.

It's a hard number to predict since the number topped out at 93 in 2010 and has vascillated up and down since.

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