There were a record number of suicides and murder- suicides in San Diego County last year, the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office reported Monday.
The report, posted on the ME's website this morning, also showed prescription drugs were the No. 1 cause of accidental deaths in the region in 2011, edging out traffic accidents.
"Because of the kinds of deaths we investigate—suicides, accidents, homicides and unexpected deaths—we have a window into the problems and risks facing the living, and the annual report reveals some of them," said Chief Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas in a statement.
Of the roughly 20,000 deaths in San Diego County last year, the Medical Examiner's Office actively investigated 2,853, performing 1,962 autopsies and 901 external exams.
The 2011 report shows 45 percent of the deaths investigated were determined to be accidental in nature, 37 percent natural, 14 percent suicide and 3 percent homicides.
The leading cause of natural deaths was cardiovascular disease, the same as it was in 2010.
When it came to suicides, the report finds 392 deaths in the county last year were self-inflicted. Last year marked the fifth consecutive year the suicide rate has increased, according to Medical Examiner's Office.
Some of those who killed themselves last year did so after killing others. A total of 28 deaths were linked to 11 murder-suicide cases in the county in 2011, the Medical Examiner's Office reported, noting that statistic was higher than any other year since annual statistical records began being kept in 1988.
Prescription drug use was blamed for 267 deaths last year, and for this first time, a new group of synthetic drugs was linked to deaths in the county. According to the report, three people died by accident while using so-called bath salts.
Other key 2011 tallies in the report include 242 motor vehicle-related deaths, 91 homicides and eight cases of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS.
The report is posted at SDcounty.ca.gov/me.
-City News Service
Editor's Note: This story's headline has been updated to note that prescription drugs were the top cause of accidental deaths, not suicides.