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How we did it

This Sunday Gazette-Mail/West Virginia Public Radio joint investigation of overdose deaths started as an investigation into something else entirely.

Reporter Tara Tuckwiller was digging through federal

documents, looking for methadone death numbers. Tuckwiller and Finn had

written an investigative series, “The Killer Cure,” about methadone overdose deaths.

In the process, Tuckwiller

unearthed a startling statistic: In 2004, for the first time, more Americans were killed by

poisonings — mostly drug overdoses — than guns.

Finn contacted the federal

epidemiologist who had charted the statistic and found out that researchers were just as startled.

Tuckwiller and Finn collected, analyzed and graphed further source data from the National Center for Health Statistics, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and West Virginia Medical Examiner’s Office. The results are presented in this report and in the companion reports on West Virginia Public Radio, at and


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