VALPARAISO | Friday's death of a Valparaiso man appears to be the latest in an alarming increase in the number of heroin-related deaths in Porter County, Porter County Coroner Chuck Harris said.
Harris said Monday there were nine heroin-related deaths in Porter County in 2012.
Friday's death of John Crowe, 31, marks the eighth probable or suspected heroin-related death in Porter County already in 2013.
Police were called to Crowe's home in the 1900 block of Linden Drive at 7:43 p.m. Friday for a man who was not breathing. When police and EMS arrived the man was already dead, according to police.
As police investigated Crowe's death they found a hypodermic needle in a roommate's bedroom.
Ryan Herring, 30, was arrested and charged with possession of a hypodermic needle, a Class D felony, according to Valparaiso police.
"It’s alarming the number of fatalities we’re having with one drug," Harris said.
Harris emphasized that toxicology tests are still pending for several of the eight cases this year, which is why he is calling them "probable and suspected" heroin-related deaths. But he said other evidence at the scene of those deaths leads him to believe heroin is involved in all of them.
"Almost all of the time, there is drug paraphernalia at the scene," Harris said.
Spoons, syringes, tiny plastic bags — even bottle caps — are often found on or near the body in heroin overdose cases, he said.
Harris said part of the toxicology testing will include trying to determine whether other drugs or chemicals are being added or "cut" into the drug. But it will be several weeks before tests are returned.
Harris is warning all parents to look for signs their children or other family members are using drugs.
The drug is used by all types of people. Too often, parents and relatives are shocked to find out someone died from a heroin overdose.
"Some parents know their children were on drugs, but other families are completely clueless that their son or daughter was on drugs," Harris said. "A lot of people think they’re immune to it."