Overdose now #1 cause of accidental death in St. Joseph County

The apparent overdose deaths of two teens in Granger are tragic—but not uncommon.

In fact, the overdose is now the single most common cause for accidental death in St. Joseph County.

“Drug overdose deaths are actually more prevalent than motor vehicle deaths in this county and this is certainly disconcerting from a public health standpoint. There are things we can do about that,” said Dale Deardorff, M.D., St. Joseph County Health Officer.

Traffic crashes have traditionally been the top cause of accidental death but the tables in St. Joseph County first turned in 2010 when 26 overdose deaths were recorded compared to 21 traffic fatalities.

Since then, the overdose has been the most common cause of accidental death in three of the past six years, and it was the top cause of death in 2014 when it claimed 42 lives compared to the 40 lost in vehicle crashes.

Over the past five years, drug overdose deaths are up 62 percent from 26 in 2010.

“It seems to be a little younger age group, actually the data for the highest peak number of fatalities is between the ages of 25 and 54, they also are non-Hispanic whites,” said Dr. Deardorff.

In 2012, Indiana’s Attorney General set up a task force to deal with what the federal government now considers an epidemic.

That task force is chaired by Indiana’s Chief Medical Officer, Joan Duwve. “These kids don’t take these drugs with the intention of dying, in fact, many of them don’t even realize that that might be a consequence.”

Dr. Duwve says the common believe is that prescription drugs must be safe since they came from medical professionals and not someone off the street corner.

“Many times these youth actually get these drugs from family members or friends. We know that drugs in the home medicine cabinet often serve as the largest supply of these medications,” Dr. Duwve told NewsCenter 16 in a telephone interview.

In the United States as a whole, the overdose first became the leading cause of accidental death in 2008.