County of Ventura Medical Examiner's Office

Special Report: 2020 Fatal Overdoses


2,045 deaths were reported to the Ventura County Medical Examiner’s Office during calendar year 2020. Jurisdiction was accepted for 1001 of these deaths, requiring further investigation and certification.

Postmortem examinations were performed on 706 cases.  Of the cases investigated, 217 deaths were due to medications, alcohol and or illicit drugs.

Of the 217 deaths, 203 were accidents, 12 were suicides and two deaths were of undetermined manner. Of the overdose deaths, men accounted for 151 deaths (70%) and women accounted for 66 deaths (30%).

Multiple drugs or medications may be involved in one case; therefore, one should not add the numbers of individual substances. The same case may be represented multiple times by different drugs or drug categories. Overdose by city reflects the location of injury (overdose).  In some cases, the location of death is different than the city of injury because of transport to a medical facility prior to death.

Noteworthy trends:

  1. Total overdose deaths between 2019 and 2020 increased by 68 (45.6% increase). Compared to the previous year, accidental overdoses for 2020 increased by 75 while suicidal overdoses decreased by 5.
  2. Fentanyl and benzodiazepine deaths increased significantly in 2020 compared to 2019. Fentanyl contributed to 54 more deaths than the previous year. Benzodiazepines contributed to 34 more deaths than the previous year.
  3. The highest number of overdose deaths in 2020 were between ages 31 to 40 years (49 deaths) and of these deaths, 24 involved fentanyl.

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