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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Sudden death of Pierce deputy, 29, ruled accidental overdose”


    Pierce County sheriff’s deputy who died suddenly last month accidentally overdosed on oxycodone, a powerful prescription pain relief medication, the Pierce CountyMedical Examiner’s office has ruled.

    Medical examiners made the determination on Shandon Wright’s death Monday after reviewing the results of toxicology and tissue sample tests.

    Wright, 29, died March 3, one day after he had surgery to repair a dislocated shoulder he injured Aug. 19, 2010, during an encounter with a man he’d arrested.

    The man yanked on Wright’s arm, injuring him. At the time, the deputy took a week off work and then returned. But the shoulder kept giving Wright problems and he had surgeryMarch 2, the Sheriff’s Department reported.

    The next day, he had trouble breathing. Paramedics were called to his home that night, but he died. Wright, who’d been with the Sheriff’s Department for five years, left behind a wife and 2-year-old daughter.

    Wright had a prescription for the oxycodone and officials don’t believe he had taken much of the medication when he died, Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said Tuesday.

    Investigators found most of the prescribed pills left in his house after his death. Troyer didn’t have more specifics.

    Wright had been complaining of a cold and had never taken medication such as oxycodone before, Troyer said.

    “”What we believe happened was it attacked his respiratory system,”” Troyer said. “”Everybody reacts differently to it. It put him into respiratory failure.””

    Oxycodone is a powerful drug that, if not taken as directed, can cause serious illness or death, said Jennifer Sabel, an epidemiologist with the state Department of Health.

    “”Many of these overdose deaths are a combination of medication,”” she said.

    Anti-anxiety drugs can be dangerous when taken with oxycodone, which can slow a person’s breathing if too much is taken.

    “”Prescribing has just gone through the roof and that’s been followed by increase in overdose deaths and overdose hospitalizations,”” Sabel said.

    Unintentional drug overdoses have been on the rise since the late 1990s, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The increase is largely tied to prescription opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, Vicodin and methadone.

    In 2007, the painkillers were involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine combined, the CDC reported.

    “”There has been at least a 10-fold increase in the medical use of opioid painkillers during the last 20 years because of a movement toward more aggressive management of pain,”” aJuly 2010 CDC report states.

    “”Because opioids cause euphoria, they have been associated with increasingly misuse and abuse.””

    To provide information on prescription drug overdoses, the state Health Department has launched a website, “”Take as Directed.””

    The department advises patients to make their doctors aware of all medication they are taking because some medications don’t mix well, and to express concerns about pain management.

    The state Department of Labor & Industries was investigating Wright’s death to determine whether it was work-related and whether his family was entitled to state benefits.

    Department spokeswoman Elaine Fisher said Tuesday that because of confidentiality rules, she could not comment on whether the investigation was completed or if any findings have been made.

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