Drug prevalence in drowning deaths in Cuyahoga County, Ohio: a ten-year retrospective study

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2005 Sep;26(3):240-3. doi: 10.1097/01.paf.0000176280.74666.ab.

Abstract

Previous studies have shown that up to 50% of adult drownings are related to the consumption of alcohol. Little information is available in the literature regarding the possible contribution of ethanol and other drugs to drownings. All records of deaths occurring in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, from 1994-2003, in which drowning was listed as the cause of death, were reviewed. Toxicology analysis was performed on cases where specimens were submitted. Review of the 187 cases showed that the majority (78%) of drowning deaths were ruled as accidents, 26 (14%) as suicide, 5 (3%) as homicide, and 11 (6%) as undetermined. Among the accidental deaths (n=141), 97 (69%) were negative for all drugs, including ethanol, and 30 cases (21%) were positive for ethanol only. Illicit drugs were detected in 4 of the cases (3%). In the suicides (n=26), 16 (62%) were negative for all drugs, including ethanol, and 7 cases (27%) were positive for ethanol only (mean blood alcohol concentration [BAC] 0.03 g/dL). Illicit drugs were detected in 3 of the cases (12%). Two of the 5 homicide cases (40%) were positive for ethanol. There were no cases in which the victim tested positive for illicit drugs. Of the 11 cases ruled as undetermined, 64% (n=7) were negative for all drugs, including ethanol. The remainder of the cases tested positive for ethanol only. There were no cases in which illicit drugs were detected. This study demonstrates that the majority of drowning deaths in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, were not drug related. Deaths in which drugs were detected were typically accidental deaths, with ethanol the most common drug detected.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / mortality
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alcohol Drinking / mortality
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Drowning / mortality*
  • Female
  • Forensic Medicine
  • Homicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications
  • Substance-Related Disorders / mortality*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors