The coroner's office keeps track of trends that affect public health.
By PEGGY SINKOVICH
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- OxyContin abuse is an emerging trend threatening the health of the community, officials say.
The annual report of the Trumbull County Coroner's Office lists seven deaths last year related to the prescription painkiller often prescribed for cancer patients that has become the latest fad drug.
"One of the primary functions of the coroner's office is not so much to drive around and put toe tags on dead folk," said Dr. Humphrey Germaniuk, the county's forensic pathologist.
"It is among the first to see new and emerging trends regarding disease, public safety issues and public health.
"OxyContin abuse is just one such example."
Dr. Germaniuk and Dr. Ted Soboslay, the coroner, note in the report that the eight homicides in the county last year was only one more than the deaths attributed to OxyContin abuse.
"The threat is here and it is real," Dr. Soboslay said.
"When the death rate from abuse of a particular drug approaches that of the homicide rate, then we feel that there is a cause for concern."
Education: Both men hope that the public becomes more educated about the dangers of OxyContin and other prescription drugs being abused recreationally.
"We remain steadfast in our cardinal principle that medicine, in order to provide and maintain a certain quality of health, must study disease," Dr. Soboslay said.
"What greater manifestation of disease is there but death. In order to provide and maintain a certain quality of life, medicine must also study death."
The report also notes that the two major factors in motor vehicle fatalities are the use of alcohol or drugs and not using seat belts.
"Greater than 60 percent of all automobile fatalities occurred in unbelted drivers," the report says.
"Of the 34 motor vehicle-related fatalities, toxicology testing for drugs and or alcohol was positive in 18 deaths," the report states. Of those, 16 were males.
Their goal: The doctors hope their findings will encourage police to maintain strict enforcement policies.
The report also notes that the percentage of organ donations has remained "relatively constant" over the last two years. Only about 5 percent of the cases investigated by the coroner's office last year involved organ donation.
"We hope that through education, the number of organ donors will increase," Dr. Soboslay said.