Drug treatment at the Porter County Jail

Porter County Jail inmates listen to addiction treatment therapist Gwen Schilling last month at the jail in Valparaiso.

Jonathan Miano, Times file photo

ST. JOHN — Heroin abuse is an ever-increasing problem in Northwest Indiana and the United States as a whole.

But how do people end up becoming addicted to such a dangerous drug in the first place?

A free public program Tuesday at Lake Central High School will detail that often deadly descent, in the hopes audience members can prevent their own loved ones from going down a similar path. The event, "Stairway to Heroin," will feature testimony from family members of heroin addicts, as well as education, law enforcement and medical officials.

Jerry Patrick, a Dyer police corporal and school resource officer for the Lake Central School Corp., said prescription painkillers seem to be the opioid of choice among high school students, who are prescribed them for injuries or steal them from the family medicine cabinet. But many opioid addicts eventually turn to heroin because it's cheaper and more readily available. 

"People fall into heroin as a last resort," Patrick said.

He hopes the event can help spark a conversation in the community on how best to stop Northwest Indiana youth from sliding into opioid addition to begin with. "We've got to fight this problem," he said.

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Health reporter

Giles is the health reporter for The Times, covering the business of health care as well as consumer and public health. He previously wrote about health for the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World. He is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.