VALPARAISO | While the recent rash of heroin-related deaths in Porter County has garnered local attention, there is another problem involving the illegal use of prescription drugs.
Members of the county's drug task force confiscated large quantities of prescription drugs and steroids last year, according to coordinator Bob Taylor.
Topping the list of these prescription drugs was 878 doses of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, followed by 329 pills of the painkiller Hydrocodone, 130 of the anxiety inhibitor Valium, 129 of the addiction treatment drug Methadone and 120 of the pain reliever Vicodin.
The task force also took 26,157 pills of anabolic steroid and 2,752 vials of androne steroid, as part of what Taylor said were two separate dealing operations.
These figures compare to 65 grams of heroin confiscated last year, 120 grams of powder cocaine, 20 grams of crack cocaine, 29 pounds of marijuana and 50 grams of mushrooms, according to a reported provided by the drug task force.
"It's all a problem," Taylor said of the illegal use of any drug, "but the most prevalent problem is the pills right now."
Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said there have been five fatal overdoses so far this year attributed to prescription drugs -- two accidental and three suicides.
David Cummins, an emergency physician and medical director of emergency medical services at Porter Regional Hospital, said there has been a gradual but steady increase in the level of prescription drug abuse as compared to the recent surge of heroin-related deaths.
A part of the problem is that physicians are overmedicating for pain after years of undertreating this condition, he said. A medium point must be struck to reduce the amount medication going into circulation and winding up in the wrong hands, he said.
Cummins also called for using less addictive forms of mental health medications when appropriate to steer clear of the problems with Xanax.