Advice to heroin users given in response to surge in deaths

2013-04-13T18:30:00Z 2013-04-15T11:37:21Z Advice to heroin users given in response to surge in deathsBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com

VALPARAISO | While the recent surge in fatal heroin overdoses was a brutal reminder the drug problem rages on in Porter County, there has been a change in the response.

Porter County Drug Task Force coordinator Bob Taylor issued a same stern warning his team will continue its crackdown on all levels of drug offenders. But he also made the unusual move this time of offering advice to heroin users on how to best protect themselves from the specific batch of the drug in question.

Lab tests have revealed the heroin linked to the area deaths was not mixed properly, which left unequal dosages throughout the gray-colored rocks, Taylor said. It is believed the fatalities occurred because users either received an unexpectedly large dose after shaving off some of the rock for consumption or a light dose that drove them to take a second and excessive helping.

For those unable to follow his advice to leave the drug alone, Taylor recommends grinding the rocks completely to more evenly distribute the dose before use.

"It's not poison, it's just not mixed right," he said.

It is believed the drug originated in Dolton or Gary, Taylor said.

Porter Regional Hospital emergency physician David Cummins, who has seen enough of an increase in overdoses recently to encourage him to speak out, said Friday he agrees advice on safe drug use should be part of the official response along with prevention and treatment.

He encourages those who are unable to refrain from using the drug not to do it alone. This way, if there is a problem, he said there is someone there to seek to help.

Cummins could not recall an instance where someone bringing an overdose patient to the hospital was arrested.

Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said most of the fatal heroin overdoses this year have occurred at a residence.

The county has had eight confirmed and one probable fatal heroin overdoses so far this year, which is the same amount for all of 2012, Harris said. The most recent two deaths occurred March 29 in Chesterton.

Taylor believes education and treatment are needed along with enforcement to combat the drug problem. He said fourth- and fifth-graders should be targeted so they are prepared by middle school.

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