Homicides up, suicides, drug deaths down

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The state Office of the Medical Investigator said 193 deaths in New Mexico last year were investigated as homicides, six more than in the previous year, but that suicides and drug deaths were down in the state.
However, the OMI said New Mexico’s rates of suicide and drug deaths still remain above the national average.
The office’s annual report, released last week, describes what caused the death of 4,943 people, about 35 percent of the deaths in the state last year. The OMI is called in when a death is sudden, untimely or violent, or in which a person was found dead and the cause isn’t known.
In Roosevelt County, OMI reported one death by homicide, three by suicide and seven by accident in 2004. A second homicide victim was pronounced dead in the county but suffered the deadly injury outside the county, OMI reported.
Since 1995, Roosevelt County has averaged less than one homicide, about two suicides and about seven accidental deaths per year, OMI reported.
The number of drug deaths in New Mexico dropped by 18 percent in 2004 to 279 — the first significant drop since such deaths began rising over the past decade.
“It’s a very good sign,” said OMI epidemiologist Sarah Lathrop.
Many deaths attributed to drug use include more than one drug, making it difficult to tell which drugs are the ones most likely to kill, Lathrop said.
The drug toll includes deaths due to prescription and over-the-counter medications as well as illegal drugs.
OMI did not record any drug-caused deaths in Roosevelt County in 2004.
Suicides accounted for 2.5 percent of all deaths in New Mexico last year, compared to 1.3 percent of the deaths in the United States in 2004.
The overall number of suicides in New Mexico fell slightly last year to 356 from 358 in 2003 but the number of suicides for children — defined as age 19 and younger — rose 30 percent to the highest number in a decade.
“We have consistently led the nation in suicides among children,” Lathrop said.
Thirty-nine New Mexico children committed suicide last year, 19 by shooting themselves and 17 by hanging themselves.
“Both juveniles and adults tend to choose these hard methods to kill themselves,” Lathrop said. “They don’t allow an opportunity for someone to intervene.”
Three of the children who killed themselves were 12-year-old boys; one was a 13-year-old girl. Most children who killed themselves — 87 percent — were boys.
Men ages 25 to 34 were the most likely people to commit suicide.
Men also were more likely to be victims of homicide. Seventy-three percent of the 193 homicide victims in New Mexico last year were males, nearly 40 percent between the ages of 25 and 34.
Twenty-eight children also were killed, 68 percent of them were boys. Six of the children were under age 2; a dozen children were killed before they were old enough to go to first grade.
About 46 percent of the state’s homicide victims — 88 people — were shot. Thirty-six others were stabbed.
The report also found 45 percent of the homicide victims and 43 percent of the adult suicide victims had reportable levels of ethanol in their systems. Ethanol is the main intoxicant in alcohol.
Nearly 30 percent of the drivers killed in motor vehicle crashes in New Mexico and 59 percent of the pedestrians tested positive for ethanol.
The leading cause of accidental deaths was motor vehicle accidents, with 551 fatalities.
The highest number of accidental deaths occurred among men between the ages of 45 and 54. Women who died accidentally were more likely to be older, between the ages of 75 and 84.
Thirty-three people drowned in the state last year.
The OMI also was called in on deaths that turned out to be from natural causes. In fact, 62 percent of the cases the office investigated in 2004 were deaths from natural causes — a category that covers 49 separate ailments, such as heart disease or AIDS.
Lathrop said, however, the office investigates only a small fraction of deaths from natural causes.
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On the Net:
OMI Report: omi.unm.edu