VALPARAISO — Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds believes the synthetic drug Fentanyl is to blame for pushing the number of heroin deaths so far this year past last year's total.
"We don’t believe there are more addicts in Porter County, we believe that the introduction of Fentanyl has been the game changer increasing our overdoses," he said.
"Fentanyl is a synthetic opiate that is 75 times stronger than pure heroin. The users are buying heroin that is laced with Fentanyl, which is drastically increasing our overdose deaths. This introduction of Fentanyl is putting our first responders at extreme risk as well."
There were 17 heroin deaths during the first half of the year, and that number has continued growing beyond the 20 from all of last year, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said.
The exact number so far this year will not be known until toxicology reports are in, he said.
"I can guarantee you we're way past the 20," Harris said.
The news comes on International Overdose Awareness Day.
Harris said Fentanyl was detected in five deaths in the county during the first half of this year, which is nearly double the three deaths for all of last year.
This growing trend is happening across the country, he said.
"The Porter County coroner’s office has been proactive in reaching out to schools, community organizations and inmates, to educate them on the dangers of our current drug culture in Porter County," Harris said.
"Our ultimate goal in this endeavor is to reverse the current drug trends Porter County is experiencing," he said. "However, this will certainly fail unless everyone in the community pitches in to fight this battle. The problem is too large at this point to arrest our way out of it, and will certainly take a community effort to make a difference."