Volume 34, Issue 1 (January 1989)

    Analysis of Cocaine-Positive Fatalities

    (Received 28 March 1988; accepted 19 April 1988)


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    A review of all autopsy and toxicology reports for persons dying in New York City in an 11-month period found 935 persons dying with cocaine in their bodies. Cocaine-positive fatalities were more likely in the young black and Hispanic and male population. In addition to cocaine and its metabolites, heroin and other opiates were found in 39% of persons and ethanol in 33% and barbituates and minor tranquilizers in only 2% of the deceased. Cocaine overdose was responsible for 4% of the deaths and overdose with heroin and cocaine for 12% of the deaths. Violence was often the cause of death. Thirty-eight percent died of homicide, seven percent of suicide, and eight percent from accidents. Of particular interest were 6 persons who died of acute cardiac events directly related to cocaine as well as 4 cases of ruptured dissections of the ascending aorta, and 9 cases of cerebral hemorrhage. Autopsy findings for these individuals are described, and possible mechanisms of death are discussed.

    Author Information:

    Gross, E
    Associate professor of forensic medicine, New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY

    Wu, J
    Resident, St. Elizabeth's Hospital, Boston, MA

    Tardiff, K
    Associate professor and professor, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY

    Stajic, M
    Director of toxicology, Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, New York, NY

    Millman, R
    Associate professor and professor, Cornell University Medical College, New York, NY

    Stock #: JFS12610J

    ISSN: 0022-1198

    DOI: 10.1520/JFS12610J

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    Title Analysis of Cocaine-Positive Fatalities
    Symposium , 0000-00-00
    Committee E30