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County: Opioid overdose deaths remain steady; homicides numbers go down

The Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office released preliminary statistics for cases it handled in 2023 that show the county is on pace to match 2022’s record for opioid overdose deaths. Homicides fell by more than 24% in Cook County from their peak in 2021, and by 14% from 2022. 

While the office still awaits the results of hundreds of toxicology tests, it already has confirmed 1,540 opioid overdose deaths for 2023. The vast majority of those deaths – 90% – involved fentanyl. The MEO anticipates that more than 400 of its pending cases will be due to opioid toxicity, putting the final number for 2023 near 2022 totals.

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Of the opioid toxicity cases confirmed so far, approximately 80% are male. African Americans make up 56% of the deaths, Latinos account for just under 15% and whites constitute 27%. 

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The age group most impacted is 50- to 59-year-olds, accounting for 27% of the overdose deaths. The year’s youngest opioid overdose death in Cook County was an 8-month-old boy from Chicago. The oldest was a 93-year-old woman from Arlington Heights.

The office’s caseload continued to surpass pre-COVID levels, with 7,738 cases falling under the office’s jurisdiction last year. This is a drop from a peak caseload of 16,047 in 2020. Before the pandemic began, the office saw approximately 6,200 deaths in an average year. Much of the increase in caseload is attributed to opioid overdose deaths.

MEO also handled a total of 828 homicides in 2023, including 651 in Chicago. The other county municipalities with the highest number of homicides included Harvey with 13, Chicago Heights and Dolton with 12 each and Riverdale with 11. 

African Americans were the victims of 76% of homicides and Latinos accounted for just under 18% of homicide deaths. Males accounted for 84% of homicide deaths.

The number of homicide victims under the age of 18 was 92; 15 were under the age of 10.

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Overall suicide rates in Cook County have remained consistent. Males continue to make up more than 75% of suicide deaths.

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To access additional data from the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office, please visit the case archive.

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